To The Cities I Have Only Visited on Layover


You see, I was never taught how
to stop answering to my mistakes
as though they were my only name.
I never learned how
to stop dragging each day behind me
so that every one of them was sure
to meet all my follies before sunset,
never once catching up
to where my feet were actually standing.
It’s no surprise I stumble
through poem after salacious poem.

I am a walking stew of
inconvenient wishes
and reckless habits.
Can you smell the soiled sheets I roll
into my cigarette,
though I haven’t smoked in years?
When the embers flare,
I place it filter-down into an incense holder.
I watch the nicotine stream rise to the ceiling
like a foul-mouthed prayer;
an incantation I cannot uncarve
from the underside of my tongue;
stories I cannot stop rending open.

I should have sat some of my darkest secrets
down around a fire years ago.
I should have told them all
that there are better ways to let people in
than through an open wound.
I should have whispered
in a voice soft as a velvet night
that there are kinder things
to invite into the deep of you
than your own tongue sharpened
into a trauma-shaped dagger.


About the Author

Morgan Nikola-Wren is a winner of the Pangaea Worldwide Poetry Slam, 2016, and has published three books of poetry. Her debut book, Magic with Skin On, received a Goodreads Choice nomination for Best Poetry Book of 2017, and was listed in Barnes and Noble’s “25 Must-Reads for National Poetry Month.” Morgan ran away with her husband’s circus for a year, but now works at a school library, which is not all that different. She is perpetually searching for new favorite words, more black clothing, and the perfect design for her next tattoo.