Poetry-Nicole Byrne




Nicole Byrne


“Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.”

—Pancho Villa, last words

Tell them I said dying is

exactly like learning to

swim, but nothing like

learning to walk.


Tell them I said there's

more to the spectrum of

sight than what's revealed

in the refraction of light.


Tell them I said the last

breath tastes like jasmine,

like cardamom, like rose hips,

like the smoke of blue lotus.


Tell them I said dying is

like climbing a tree for

the first time: a smother

of vertigo and cedar sap.


Tell them I said my heart

danced the samba, jive

and cha-cha-cha until I

realized I had never felt so




Julianne was born without

a larynx. Void of voice,

all she knew stayed inside

her. At sixteen, she hid

from summer heat

in her parents’ cellar, dusted

off their record player.

She tasted Leonard Cohen

and he taught her

how to cry, which taught

her lips how to move.

Something hot inside her

beat to be released,

to unground her, but she

had no sound to express

the bellbird she felt fluttering

in her chest. She learned

to climb trees to feel at one

with the sky, and kiss

trees instead of screaming. Soon,

her mouth was always full

of sap. Her lips grew shells

of crystalline sugar and

her tongue learned to roll

syrup around her gums.

After a year of kisses,

her teeth rotted and fell out.

Mistletoe bloomed from

where they planted themselves

in the branches. She swallowed

green drupes until her veins

relaxed. When she fell

from the tree, she never hit

the ground. She became wind

and rain and was spread

throughout the sky in thrush

songs. She whispers in sun

showers and howls in hurricanes,

and let herself vibrate

with the rhythms she could

never speak.