The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Bloodwarm by Taylor Byas

This selection, chosen by guest curator Addie Tsai, is from Bloodwarm by Taylor Byas, released by Variant Lit in 2021. 

You’re It

after Tamla Horsford

“You are a Black girl, but don’t know. you sleep
next to it. crooked bone, split-open head.”
            —Joy Priest, “Nightstick”

The sleepover nettles itself into a frenzy from everyone’s restlessness. You
sleep yet?—tossed like a horseshoe to snag on the poles of your breaths. The birds are

trilling each other into silence to hear the grass sink its blades into the sole of a
bare foot. The soft crunch of lost battle. Outside, you huddle under the black

tarp of night with the others, shock someone with your body’s static. One girl
dares you all into the woods for hide-and-seek. It will be fun, she says. But

the thick foliage of the trees chokes out the moonlight. A voice tells you Don’t
peek as they lead you into the brush, two hands over your eyes. You know

how to play right? And sure you do. You close your eyes and count to 30. You
listen until there is no difference from their clumsy skittering and the sleep-

crossed frisking of squirrels overhead. When you open your eyes, you are next
to nothing, night unfolding like a black hibiscus in each direction. You call out to

the group, Ready or not, here I come. Taunt yourself with the echo. It
takes a while for the eyes to adjust, to unlearn the shape of a killer from the crooked

branches, to hear anything but the papered leaves snapping like bone
beneath your steps. You are a fawn then, your jelly-legged steps to test the soil, the split-

second freeze when suddenly the girls reappear for a different game, yipping into the night, open-
moutheda flashlight shining into your eyes, your back kissing the ground, a bounty on your head.

Taylor Byas is a Black Chicago native currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio where she is a PhD student and Yates scholar at the University of Cincinnati, and an Assistant Features Editor for The Rumpus. She was the 1st place winner of both the Poetry Super Highway and the Frontier Poetry Award for New Poets Contests. Her work appears or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Borderlands Texas Poetry Review, Glass, Iron Horse Literary Review, Hobart, Frontier Poetry, SWWIM, TriQuarterly, and others. She is represented by Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris Agency.

Addie Tsai (any/all) is a queer nonbinary artist and writer of color. They collaborated with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater on Victor Frankenstein and Camille Claudel, among others. Addie holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College and a PhD in Dance from Texas Woman’s University. She is the author of the queer Asian young adult novel Dear TwinUnwieldy Creatures, their adult queer biracial retelling of Frankenstein, is forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press in 2022. They are the Fiction Co-Editor at Anomaly, Staff Writer at Spectrum South, and Founding Editor & Editor in Chief at just femme & dandy.


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