Poetry: A Word For You (notes on a search for a gender neutral pronoun)

by: Lindsay Popper


Is there a word for the congregations of fireflies just past dusk
that fill the fields that line the only road to your house
like fallen stars had taken root, bloomed, and sent off seeds?

Is there a word for the sound of the baby’s hand
as she pats my clavicle, for the way her face
puzzle-pieces into the crook of my neck?

What about for the way eggs taste when scrambled
three years later by the only heart I’ve ever broken,
the same boy who taught me how to fly

the year I turned eighteen on a hand-me-down bike
in the middle school soccer field? What about for the seconds
between the ankle’s sprain and the moment I first felt pain?

There’s no word for the city stretched out soggy and impatient
behind the rain-struck windowpane, the sound of a lilting river
of unfamiliar tongues in Patel’s Market, or the hour

I wept through Quaker meeting and the only other sound
to break the silence was seven verses of a hymn sung in French,
so I don’t expect to have a word that fits you, but

one of these days, I’m going to burn the dictionaries,
sprinkle their ashes down storm drains, and start over
with a language made out of the light

your face throws off like a moon,
that does for us what the scroll and spark of the Bic lighter does,
just for a moment, in the almost-unbroken dark.

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