Because you were a city then, and used to being mapped,
I drew your secrets like blue rivers on the crisp chart
of longing—your lower lip, caged between your teeth,
the only compass I needed. I laid you out for you,
your dreams like gutters and blind alleys, your sins
a cathedral, and doubleness a well-traveled boulevard.
Your eyes were monuments to some forgotten war.
I was no great cartographer, but you wanted naming,
wanted streets laid flat in a grid, letter by number,
wanted signs with white letters like paid ransoms.
It pleased you to see yourself navigated, to have landmarks.
You posted your laws in whispers: steal, murder, but don’t graffiti.
You can wander and wander, but don’t get lost.
You were a city then, and beautiful, and you deserved better.
Someone with a ruler and a surer hand. Someone who understood.
I was a smear of ink, the kind of woman who tears down notices
and leaps over barricades. I plunged us in together
and we lost our way. The rivers were so much deeper off the map.
When they found you, you were untraceable. They needed me
to name your remains like ruins.
Megan Arkenberg is a recent transplant from Wisconsin to Northern California. Her work has appeared in Asimov’s, Lightspeed, The Best Horror of the Year, and dozens of other places, and won the 2012 Rhysling Award and the 2013 Asimov’s Readers’ Choice award. She procrastinates by editing the fantasy e-zine Mirror Dance.