Taylor Byas


Don’t Go Getting Nostalgic

Taylor Byas

          Some years there exists a wanting to escape—
          you, floating above your certain ache

                                                        -Claudia Rankine

When cleaning my family home for the sale, I excavate memories, some
crumpled paper-portals into flashbacks. In my nightstand drawer, years

of notes I smuggled through theology classes, and my signature barely there
at the ends of diary entries, the pages golding like teeth. Another me exists

in my childhood bedroom, still thin enough to worm beneath the bed. A
version of me that still believes that loving you was enough, that wanting

things to work would make it so. In a big manila envelope labeled “Letters to
Grief,” my 16-year-old self wishes herself dead, probes a different escape

route in each dispatch. And then your letters, all of the different ways you
scribbled out our future in rushed cursive, your pen-doodled roses floating

in the margins of your promises—We’ll never be apart. And I’m not above
crying over long-lost things, but this is where it gets embarrassing. Your

name starts to bring tears to my eyes in grocery store aisles, when I hear certain
songs. I miss something I’ve forgotten the name of. What a special kind of ache.

space break

A Cut Foot Teaches Kindness

I cradle my foot like an infant’s in my grip,
a red-lipped kisser daggered into its sole
and glass still rooted in flesh—a crystal wing tip
to tweeze loose, gently. Slowly. It makes a hole

too deep to dam with pressure, my t-shirt’s hem
pressed to the wound, a poor man’s gauze, soaked through.
Last week, I called my mother on a whim
and asked her how she dealt with loneliness. You

learn to take care of yourself, become your own
prince charming. So I extract the shard like a lover
might, ask myself—does it hurt? you alright?—along
the way. I’d kiss it if I could reach. I’d cover

it with my lips and say there there. If healing
was as easy as this, I could get used to the feeling.

space break

Growing Pains

Deep in the catacombs
of Facebook photos, I find myself

still laughing with two old
best friends, as if time doesn’t pass

but only flips over and over
itself like a coin in the cover

of cupped hands. The three of us;
a wall of uniform polos

and khakis, our bodies beginning
and never ending, our hands

seeking the heat of the other’s shoulders
like missiles—back then,

it was much easier to ask for
what we wanted. I track changes

on each face like a poem
in revision: the deepening

of one’s eyes, the other’s nose ring
that appeared in 2014, the space

mushrooming between us
as I swipe towards the future.

I believe a picture is much less
than a thousand words—

what do we now have to say
to each other? The last photo

we have together; the three of us
huddled for warmth at a concert,

my own face blurred as I flit
out of focus, the lower half of my chin

missing. Even then, I was rushing
to be in a frame I can’t remember

being invited into.

Taylor Byas is a Black poet and essayist from Chicago. She currently lives in Cincinnati where she is a second year PhD student and Albert C. Yates Scholar at the University of Cincinnati, pursuing her degree in Creative Writing (Poetry). She is a reader for both The Rumpus and The Cincinnati Review, and the poetry editor for FlyPaper Lit. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, The Journal, Borderlands Texas Poetry Review, Hobart, Pidgeonholes, and others. Her prose appears in Another Chicago Magazine, Empty Mirror, Jellyfish Review, and others.