2013 Contest: A Look Back at Poetry Winner Hannah Aizenman

Aug 15, 2014Feature, Poetry Print

Hannah Aizenman hails from Birmingham, AL, and is an MFA student in poetry at New York University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins, plain china, Three Rivers Review, and Collision Literary Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn.

History, or Umbilicus

by Hannah Aizenman


There was a girl who was also a cave and she could feel the etchings
inside her. This is how I came to you then: girl and cave,
glyph and hunt. Aleph, bound bird, tamed beast, blood rite.

The girl was a cave but she was also a mouth. The mouth was
a hole, and the hole was a grave. The grave asked

how did I come to you then, ragged continent, drifting verse, Jew’s
harp? There was a girl who was also a song, and a seismic shift,

and this is how I came to you then: stray omphalos, oracle bone,
a parsing out of pulp and marrow. There was a girl who kept
useless things: fallen teeth and empty bottles, how did I

name loss, how did I undress? The girl had a spine that resembled
a river, and so the girl became a map: I came to you then with
parchment lungs, with compass heart. That vertebral river ran

thick with ink and was a stain. A stain, a storm, a guiding star,
and the star had been dead for many years. How did I come to you

then, a dreamscape, a disaster, a list of missing ships? The girl was
a weapon but she did not know: was I poem, was I problem, was I
machine built to dismantle itself? This is how

I came to you then: a feathered diaspora in cigarette ash,
in the broke-open body of a bleached echinoid.
I had starved the animal out of me, then. The machine the girl was

grew ill of its work. She wanted to eat earth and be buried in it. How
did I come to you, bodiless question, phantom limb? If you had

only one hand, what would you carry?

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