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Chemical names, bird names, names of fire

and flight and snow, baby names, paint names,

delicate names like bones in the body,

Rumplestiltskin names that are always changing,

names that no one’s ever able to figure out.

Names of spells and names of hexes, names

cursed quietly under the breath, or called out

loudly to fill the yard, calling you inside again,

calling you home. Nicknames and pet names

and baroque French monikers, written in

shorthand, written in longhand, scrawled

illegibly in brown ink on the backs of yellowing

photographs, or embossed on envelopes lined

with gold. Names called out across the water,

names I called you behind your back,

sour and delicious, secret and unrepeatable,

the names of flowers that open only once,

shouted from balconies, shouted from rooftops,

or muffled by pillows, or whispered in sleep,

or caught in the throat like a lump of meat.

Richard Siken, excerpt from “Saying Your Names”

The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell.

Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time.

Richard Siken, “Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out”
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