by Kathryn Knight Sonntag

Once there was a language
of women. Once
there was script for
“world” and “womb” outside
the characters of men.

Ticks of thread pulled
through cloth, belts, straps,
passwords embroidered
into the hems of women
who worshiped birds. Stories
passed from mother
to daughter, murmurations
of sky and land.

It is their motion I feel—strokes
laid like insect tracks,
bodies embracing—whipped air.
Virgules and arcs stalk my shadow,
as unbearable as wings
that will never
touch down.

It is all I can do not
to reach out and feel blindly
for the apparitions
of bird women, to shout, desperate
for tongues, Teach me
how to break open
my lips.

Once there was a clan
of sworn sisters. Once
they were feared.

*“Women’s Script” of the rural villages of Jiangyong, China.

KATHRYN KNIGHT SONNTAG is a landscape architect and planner in Salt Lake City. She has a BA in English and a BS in environmental studies from the University of Utah and a Master’s in landscape architecture and environmental planning from Utah State University. Her poems have appeared in Shades: The University of Utah’s Literary & Art Magazine, Wilderness Interface Zone, Young Ravens Literary Review, Exponent II, and forthcoming in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Her first collection, The Tree at the Center, is forthcoming from By Common Consent Press.

Photo: “Nushu, the Language of Secrets” by Pedro Serapio