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. 

October Spell in Indiana

Midnight takes a swig, swallows
            this stretch of I-65 South. My radio

stations begin to overlay like photos
            in a collage—the corners of achy breaky

glued to late-night R&B—failed
            self-tuning. Someone’s wished

the stars away. The moon is a crystal ball
            in the cinch of a witch’s gloved

hand, my car a captainless flashlight
            sweeping these empty curves

of highway. I’m singing but not really
            singing, blessing myself with muttered

prayer—Lord cover me
            in your blood. Let me make it home.

I am tapping morse code onto
            the steering wheel’s belly-bend when

dust, no, smoke swarms overhead, a fire
            gutting the sky of a few coats

of black. A car has crashed into the Jersey
            wall, it’s front crumpled like a paper

basketball. Fire folds around it
            like the jaws of a Venus flytrap, melts

the paint like acid. As I pass, I see the driver’s
            side profile, a black construction-paper-cutout

against amber and sandstone. The flames
            snap like a wishbone pulled between my

two fists in childhood. I cross myself—
            Lord cover me in your blood. Let me—

In the near distance, the Meadow Lake
            windmills rouse from darkness, giant crosses

in their frozen waves. And then eyes,
            each windmill’s solitary red light blinking

to life at once—proof that this land
            is always sleeping and waking. The driver in front

of me thrusts a pale arm out of their window,
            flicks a still-lit cigarette butt to the cold,

the black and orange of ash and heat
            scuttering beneath my car, searching

for something new to spark. The windmill
            lights come on, go out at once, hundreds

of cameras recording. My prayer gets lost
            in the radio’s mangling—
                        ████ cover me
                                    in ████ blood.
                                                make it home.

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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