Redbird Reef


In Brooklyn, my ex rides
.           in a subway car
like the ones sunk to the bottom
of the Atlantic,            repurposed into hope
and reef.


.          We don’t have to name it
.                    bereft or drowned.
Instead, call it                                     new city,
.                    an ecosystem on the hull
.          of an F train.
.          we will call it that
.                    and I’ll refrain from calling him
to say how I feel like I’ve missed my stop,
thrumming too fast in a dark tunnel:
.          a muffled hum in my chest, softer
.                    than the chime of a train’s closing doors.


.                                                           No,
I’ll say how hopeful,
.                    the way we recycle:
whatever we were has faded so easily
.          into landscape camouflaged
by coral
.          or skyscrapers, the pylons
.                    of a bridge lifting
from a riverbed.


.          What trash couldn’t be emptied,
stripped, renumbered?
.                    What couldn’t be flung
.                               from a barge glinting?


This sinking
.                    and only a memory of riding
.          all the way to Coney Island
for the silver-scaled skirts and feathered wigs
of the mermaid parade one summer.


.                                  I’ve lost him, the energy
.          to walk a city
.                                  into early morning
when the birds begin
.                      their calls.


My phone is silent.
.                                  At night,
.          the streetlamps and lighthouses always
.                    flicker on, even after the ships return
.                                  to the bustling city, even if
some of us are lost
.                                                           outside the grid,
.          alone on the darkened ocean floor.


Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.12.05 PMStacey Balkun,
author of Lost City Museum (ELJ Publications 2016), received her MFA from Fresno State and her work has appeared or will appear in Gargoyle, Rogue Agent, MuzzleTHRUSH, and others. A 2015 Hambidge Fellow and a 2013 Artist-in-Residence at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Stacey now lives in New Orleans, LA where she volunteers for literacy and is a contributor to The California Journal of Women Writers at

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