Jess Smith

Fire Breathing

“Come not between the dragon and his wrath…I loved her most.” –King Lear

What do you want me
to say, and how? I call you
Matthew, I call you

Titus, I call out the sound
you stitched in me, sharp
bell in the dry dark

of sudden waking.
You chambered me 
as a child, roped 

my tongue in riddle. 
How could I not go now
toward the bonfire casting

its auburn in the slate field?
I dream you on the flame’s
far side, palms turned skyward

in supplication, a match
balanced in your bared
teeth. If I callow myself

to silence, I can hear 
the hum of your leftover 
devotion, strumming behind 

the blaze’s husky rumble. It is
the finger you are always curling
to me, the song that once put me

to sleep. How do you keep 
your love so hushed? You gave me 
a name, now say it. 

Jess Smith is currently pursuing a PhD in English at Texas Tech University where she founded and curates the LHUCA Literary Series. Her work can be found in Prairie Schooner, Waxwing, 32 Poems, The Rumpus, and other journals. She is the recipient of support from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Vermont Studio Center.