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Published: Mon Jul 1 2013
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.

If it could speak it would say,

up in aisle three;
would shower

the day with debris
of off-key mea

It fancies itself

the lost doppelganger
of a mid-

fifth-century saber,
practicing its rattle

when not at the table.
It’s prone to chip

stoneware and fracture
decanters, to trampling a mirror

or rim of rare crystal,
and it ponders

and ponders
with thoughts

wonder, the odd snag

of an ankle or dactyl,
the brave punch

bowl bulge at the back
of the skull,

bendings in a mandible

and clavicle,
porcelain swell

of a tea-cup patella.

Hailey Leithauser is the author of two poetry collections: Saint Worm (Able Muse Press, 2019) and Swoop (Graywolf Press, 2013), which won the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson First Book Award and the Towson Prize for Literature. Her work has appeared in The Birmingham Poetry Review, 32 Poems, Cincinnati Review, The Hopkins Review, Plume, Poet Lore, AGNI, Alaska Quarterly Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, and The Yale Review. (updated 4/2023)

Leithauser’s AGNI poem “The Moon Speaks of Polar Bears” was chosen for The Best New Poets 2010.

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