Before language, there were hands. To receive, deliver. This I know—the holding

of things, the releasing. How with fingertips he fed the ashes of my letters

to the star magnolia’s shadow. How, into the ivied blue of his palms,

I placed my gifts: 17 ammonites, the skull of a deer, sometimes

my own jaw. The mouth silenced by drink, thirst

predating the word for it. Burning,

my letters. Long before

I wrote them,  

long before


I handed him the match


though, long ago—as though eavesdropping

on a story I’d forgotten is my own—on a street corner

in Laos a local boy on a bicycle and I, on foot, collide


& in the dark street, in a dark silk of shock—of inertia

inverted—we hold each other, fingers laced, as we

in English ask, are you okay, are you until we begin again

to feel like strangers        with two languages.


Hannah Perrin King grew up on a dirt road and now lives in Brooklyn, NY where she writes about god and horses. She received honorable mention in The Cincinnati Review’s Robert and Adele Schiff Awards in Poetry and Prose and was a 2017 Tin House Summer Workshops Scholar. This May, she completed her MFA at The New School and is currently an affiliate editor at The Alaska Quarterly Review. She is the winner of AWP’s 2018 Kurt Brown Prize for Poetry.