From the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


We were told our bones were too heavy to lift
even when latticed together with feathers.

You stopped eating and learned to scowl
while I folded birds into paper and flung them
across yards already littered with light.

You read how hummingbirds tuck themselves
into the plumage of northern geese,
so I held you against my breast
as we fell from the darkest pines.

Each night you dreamed of crooked trees,
thin seams tearing apart in the sky.
You found a word in the dictionary
of obscure sorrows upon which to hang
our failures—

              mahpiohanzia:
the disappointment of being unable
to catch wind currents in your arms.

Together we chanted the syllables, as if
each vowel could bear the weight of the living.


Photo of Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello

Photo of Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello

Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello is the author of Hour of the Ox, which won the 2015 AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry, and Last Train to the Midnight Market (2013), and has received poetry fellowships from Kundiman and the Knight Foundation, among others. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2015, Columbia: A Journal of Literature & Art, Southern Humanities Review and more. She serves as co-founder and managing editor for Print-Oriented Bastards and producer for The Working Poet Radio Show.