Natalie Eilbert


Tonight you are no one’s treasure. There is a love
you’ve never craved carved into your limbs that I

want you to bury but don’t. I swore I heard you out
in a clearing, the clearing I was made to feel

small and lost in, where I imagined you a cat coated
to a tree. There is no discovery when an opening

is so vast no trees can grow: the people call this faith.
No discovery but for the cicadas that know to chirp

and collapse for the birds when the sky rolls back. When I eat
a meal I feel fat and marvelous as I did when the boys

kissed my neck against the house, too early in the night
to be known. I didn’t shake out of fear. Sorry. They came

to my house crowded with sticks and I lost you out there. I believed
once that I drew my brother’s ghost an impeccable likeness—

Like you, to tap one spot forever meant a piece of me stayed whole.
When I find home in my city, I will push your image back like a spleen.


You don’t get to tell me my arms are useless. The kith
of scales should move you, the dedication
to impoverished architecture. What you don’t know is
I started gathering cotton grass in mock worship
of your romance with blackbirds. I started before you were born.
Dressed them in kohl, breathed my weathers into them.
You don’t get to tell me the priority of wings. I know.
The cattails whip the marshlands with the discipline
of a schoolmarm. I can tell you in the rain my labor is sexy.
My fat tits darken. I would lay down with anyone
who doesn’t laud the cloacas, the irascible beaks.
That’s ridiculous. All afternoon I grieved the great morning sky
you rode in on, prayed for its nothing change. See
how my English has improved. See how hot I look
descending the stairs, a necklace of claws around my neck,
the talons dug into with arsenic. My old life bloats
like a collection of dictionaries abandoned beneath
the bed of some walkup apartment. Hallelujah,
you’ve yet to get my magic. Already my veil appears silken,
my spiderleg lashes. Leave me my materials, my histrionics.


Since when have I ever told you what to do. Because
I am flummoxed, my imagination a luthier, my hands
a terrible suicide in which I break each beveled organ.
Understand I am useless. Understand the dead concrete
uprooted in a clearing is artless stone. I am pregnant
with another myth’s god, you know. Your life will end
with the relief of dismounting a gaunt horse. Speak
of dignity, its sorry betrayal like strung goats.
That last kicked hoof is music, understand. The mission
is always to unbed these sordid mysteries, the black museums
through which cornhusks privately exhume, mutant fur
I’ll call my linsey-woolsey protects my soulless bilateria.
My strength disturbs your hearts. It must. From now on
you are only to speak to me bourbon-lipped. I will award you
an amulet: My body on a silver string, against your chest
heavy, unable to snap. It’s simple to imagine me
there. Think of your cousin’s body from its noose.
My burdens are entirely my own. How light they make us.


Natalie Eilbert’s poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Tin House, Guernica, Spinning Jenny, West Branch, Bat City Review, Sixth Finch, The Paris-American, DIAGRAM, LineBreak, and many others. Her chapbook, “Swan Feast,” was selected as the finalist in YesYes Book’s Inaugural Chapbook Competition. She is the founding editor of The Atlas Review, and lives in Brooklyn, NY.