If there is still one hellish, truly accursed thing in our time, it is our artistic dallying with forms, instead of being like victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames.


I live in beautiful old buildings
that your fathers lived in,
& their fathers. Nothing is real until it is.
You’d hate that.
It’s hard to hurt things.
Isn’t it.
I’m afraid of spiders but I still scoop them cold
into my hands & let them free. Where’s the church
for things like this. I could talk about churches
but for the dust. I could talk
about cities but for the mist. Last night, I stepped out
into the crystal-cold English night & our looming chapel
was hanging in fog. None of us even deserve
any of this: the only city that envelops you like a shrine
to something you’re not even good enough to worship.
The not-church is my bedroom
& my soft-stained sink. The not-church is everything you, boy, think you know.
I’ve seen your books. I’ve seen your pen. Artaud called it
burning at the stake. I have burned & burned but is it burning
if there’s no one there to see? I burn
in a dark gorgeous cave in a turn of twisting earth
& there are no sounds there, & no figures
or forms, but the softest crystals on earth, pieces of not-rock
& not-thing & I burn in the not-light / & I bleed into my soap-stained sink
still soft / & I sign as I am supposed to sign:
standing straight still, signaling nothing, with nothing, for nothing, forgetting
my name as an echo that drifts & leaves its way to the shrine-city for which none of us
are good enough, where it disappears into the system of bells
as just another tonal, longing thing, lengthening & fading.
From my not-church in a building older
than our fathers, I hear it & don’t recognize myself
in it. I hear bells where, somewhere, in another
similar universe, there are no bells,
but through the chapel-feasting flames, an echo
from some dark-cave slick stone stake
signing Talin, Talin, Talin, Talin, Talin, Talin, Talin,
until, in the distance, a small body
falls from a cave in a cavernous crag, a burnt,
budding thing, still crying or bleeding, so thin
& so rot for mercy.

Talin Tahajian grew up near Boston. Her poetry has appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Indiana Review, Sixth Finch, Birdfeast, Passages North, Columbia Poetry Review, Best New Poets 2014 & 2016, Salt Hill, Washington Square Review, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. She’s the author of two chapbooks, The smallest thing on Earth (forthcoming from Bloom Books) and Start with dead things (Midnight City Books, 2015), a split chapbook with Joshua Young. Ocean Vuong included her series, “Movie Star with Vanilla Milkshake” (Poor Claudia), in his list of the fifteen best poems published online by women poets of color in 2014, curated by Up the Staircase Quarterly. She edits poetry for The Adroit Journal.