Zaphra Stupple


Zaphra Stupple


call me nightingale. call me everything that’s wrong. I have a voice like spilled bread and a bunsen burner between my thighs. once I fell off a seven story building and I didn’t fly but the concrete didn’t kill me. I’ll turn you ocean. the bad kind. call me knifetooth. men turn shipwreck in my mouth.

she says can you explain that?

nightingale means lover.

she says go deeper.

lover means death.

she nods. tell me about everything that’s wrong.

everything is wrong.

she says no. tell me what’s wrong.

I’m wrong.

she says say it again.

I’m a bird and my wings are wrong.

she says no. I said say it again.

wrong. wrong. I’m wrong.

she nods. keep going. tell me about the bread. the burner.

I don’t have an answer.

she says yes you do.

my voice is like bread because it’s bigger than it used to be.

she nods again. keep going.

I lied. there’s no burner.

she says good. you can always tell me the truth.

the building is my body and so is the concrete.

she says what’s the air?

jade. blue metal. the air is a forest.

she says I didn’t ask for metaphor.

the air is hands. piles and piles of hands.

she says good. tell me about the ocean.

it’s beautiful. big, streaked with red. the biggest thing you’ve ever seen.

she says no. tell me about the bad kind.

I don’t want to talk about it.

she says good. that’s good. tell me.

I don’t want to.

she says tell me.


she says tell me what’s behind the knife.

a man. it’s all a man.

she smiles. good. tell me about the man.

he’s ten feet tall and made of locusts. he’s an eel in my water glass.

she says very good. keep going. tell me about knifetooth.

it’s a lie.

she says I know.

I’m sorry.

she says don’t be. tell me about your mouth.


she nods.

stones. not rocks, stones. big ones.

she says where are the stones?

under the bad ocean.

she says where’s the bad ocean?


she says good. tell me about the men.


she nods. tell me about everywhere.

I don’t want to.

she says you can trust me.

I don’t want to.

she says of course you don’t.

everywhere is like molasses. a chest of drawers.

she says good.

she says our time is almost up. tell me about the men again. tell the truth.


she nods. good. I’ll see you next week.

Zaphra Stupple is a poet and multimedia artist living in Michigan. They are the 2017 Ann Arbor youth poet laureate and the 2017 Ann Arbor poetry slam champion. Their work has been published in or is forthcoming from The Offing, HEArt Journal, Hermeneutic Chaos, Bodega, and Vinyl.