Acceptable Documentation

by Sonya Taaffe

Papers, papers—crossing the borders of dream,
when the stone-faced guard held her hand out like a scanner
I showed her Kreytman’s juvenilia,
no, a sand-burnt scrap of Sappho,
no, the last, lost letter from Tomis, never sent home.
No, a small scratched star of Tanit
uneclipsed by Rome,
a glass-cracked silver emulsion
fogged with ghosts of oceans past.
No, my hands sweating through my wallet
found only encaustic,
a dark-eyed stranger’s face, dead as gold.
Behind me, they whispered
the papers are blossom, the bullets fruit.
On the train, at the docks, in the desert,
helpless as a magician
with everything but his own identity
up his sleeve, I turned
the Library of Alexandria out of my pockets and woke
never knowing if they shot me
under my own name.


Sonya Taaffe reads dead languages and tells living stories. Her short fiction and poetry have been collected most recently in Forget the Sleepless Shores (Lethe Press) and previously in Singing Innocence and Experience, Postcards from the Province of Hyphens, A Mayse-Bikhl, and Ghost Signs. She lives with her husband and two cats in Somerville, Massachusetts, where she writes about film for Patreon and remains proud of naming a Kuiper belt object.