[the siren's story]

she wasn’t born in this city. she found its basalt greenstone chunks, seafloor forced skyward. it found her hands through mist and odors whirring pigeons’ clubfeet fluttering, toothless men’s paper sacks spilling elixirs, roots, shark fin tonics. heat swelling sewer steam rising, side street chess match maneuvers mystifying. it sought her whirlwind hair, grown seavine thick. songbird, adrift, nestling neon, she crafted snares for moths, butterflies, treasure hunting children tracing ideographs: sky, sun. patina spires, smirking dragon boys humming silk lanterns, flight of phoenixes through fish vendors’ stalls, corrugated plastic blackbird perches, jade-ringed gardens, needle-tipped shanties. it bulleted trees, lighting hash pipes; herbalists’ storefront canopies concealing leathered men, versed in languages of whiskered ghosts. it invented her dialect carving tongue: salt fables, yellow caution tape palaces. she lost herself in this city. it lured her, drank her air; honey voice’s precision, hybrid beyond memory. songbird, adrift, this city’s misplaced siren. migration patterns subterranean streams swallowed whole.

Barbara Jane Reyes, "Galleon Prayer" from Poeta en San Francisco. Copyright © 2005 by Barbara Jane Reyes.  Reprinted by permission of Tinfish Press.
Source: Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish Press, 2005)
More Poems by Barbara Jane Reyes