K Janeschek

Present Tense

I am born a body
with no name. My people are the lonely
willows lipping the streams. This is water, they speak,
holding cupped hands out to one another.
This is ash. Voices lilt 
as throats are slashed. I am moving downstream
in my own time, anointing the banks
ice has scarred. If there is a flood, I am of it. 
If there is a sea, I am drowned, then dragged under 
the currents. Sky above, memory wakes 
in me. There is a past
behind every bruised bone. I try to imagine
the hematomas buried under skin, purple
whiplashing up a skeleton. I swallow
another ember each time I am given
a new name. Fire sinks
until it reaches my belly, smoke crawling
up my windpipe. This is burning. Outside, birch
trees tremble, afraid to be touched.  Each leaf
sighs, breath falling
to the forest floor. The wind
carries our names ahead of this body, echoes breaking stillness
before the wave. Slick with oil, I can’t smell the trail of ash
I’ve sown. I reach for tender saplings, find
wooden matches placed in my palm.

K Janeschek is a writer and labor organizer originally from the Midwest. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Mid-American Review, Foglifter, Nimrod International Journal, HAD, Variant Lit, Split Rock Review, Poet Lore, and elsewhere, and has won an AWP Intro Journals Project award in poetry. They live in Alaska.