/a riesenberg


It’s a warm blue day in June the bird comes out of nowhere much larger than she would have guessed hits the car hard enough that she jumps she hears herself shout it flew off and is relieved she mentioned the bird not the car she failed this test once before


She was six they were standing in the alley between the houses her parents and the boy’s father when he told them his son had been hit by a car on his bike and she’d asked after the bike not the boy and everyone had stared and she’d understood she’d done something wrong 

But she couldn’t deny she cared more about the bike than the boy it was scarlet and shiny and she’d wanted it when she’d seen it had wanted its speed and its glint the boy was just a boy the kind she already knew to avoid


She pulls over gathers the fragments of mirror strewn in the road some feathers the turkey lost as it fled she brushes her cheeks with their fineness she wants to be close to the bird she wants to inhale the secret of flight

What’s left of the mirror hangs like a ruined eye out the window she keeps driving she can’t help looking the habit of looking behind her so deeply rooted inside her she is uneasy without this slice of her sight


She didn’t ride a bike until she was eight partly her asthma partly her mother’s general anxiety about the physical world when she finally graduated from backyard to sidewalk she rode in circles around the block she wasn’t allowed to cross the street


She looks ahead she looks up clouds have turned the sky a bruised shade of salt she thanks the sprawl of invisible stars above for the bird’s life 


They gave her an ocean blue Schwinn when she turned ten exactly like her friend Lila’s she liked Lila more than the bike Lila was blonde and athletic and liked her too until Missy showed up


She worries about the bird –– is it hurt –– is it more likely now to be hurt again


In high school everybody had ten-speeds she bought a yellow one with drop handlebars and a skinny black seat fell off and broke her tailbone holding hands with a boy riding too fast down a hill

The doctor said she was lucky she didn’t feel lucky she didn’t love the boy he didn’t love her and she let him do things she shouldn’t have


She’s tired of surviving tired of looking back she takes the feathers off the dash sweeps them across her lips pretends she has wings




This morning a cusp  she is gathering the ears and eyes of the court in a dusty sunbeam at the front of a room she is getting ready to speak

She is not considering the legacies of oration the how-tos she is concentrating on the butterflies circling inside her stomach the patterns adorning their wings that look today like a map

She is inhaling their breeze as it tickles her throat she is smiling at the familiar idiom of apprehension how often it is misunderstood how she enjoys her distress

She embraces the wayward air swirling up from her lungs she stretches her tongue she is the mouth that will utter too soon she is the horizon shackled

She will speak arms extended as if she is already bound to the pyre she will not reveal the wings recently sprung on her back how they fold threat into flight

She will see stones in the hands of her audience she will recognize dread as her incontrovertible fever her voice will flame up the walls she will conjure a hurricane wind

She will cry let me build you a prayer


Anne Riesenberg, an acupuncturist from Portland, Maine, holds an MFA from Lesley University. Finalist in the 2017 Noemi Press Prose contest, winner of the 2016 Blue Mesa Review nonfiction contest and Storm Cellar’s 2017 Force Majeure contest her work has also recently appeared in What Rough Beast, The Maine Review, The Blueshift Journal, and Naugatuck River Review.