In the beginning, I was neither image
nor identity. Time was a quickening;
I was my own dark-watered well.
There was no hankering there, just
another native world and its wishes.
Who is Memory? Why does she matter
to History? Their far-off laughter uncurled
me—I stretched out to hear more closely.

In the beginning, I was born a man-girl
with teeth for toes and a headful
of hair hiding the nubs of horns.
This was before ally or self-portrait,
prodigal performer or forgotten prop. Soon,
I was collecting sounds I mimicked
at my elders’ commands to avoid my own
noise. I found myself hiding in a closet

beside bags of clothes only the dead would wear.
That wasn’t the first time I spooned myself.
Yes, there were large and small storms.
I had a sister until the accident, and a brother
was willed after months of grief-graft.
By then, I was already distant, a tumbleweed
rubbing my thorns late into the night
when those yesteryears sidle near.

Isn’t that why you’re here? In the end,
there’s only one way to begin
an origin story: at the beginning. I know
a good one: a monster named Joy-
in-the-Margins learns the nature of light
by revising the dark into song with every
register of her seven tongues.
Ready? Let’s begin. Verse 0. Surah 1.