. Let It Bleed My family believes a puzzle piece is missing, that it’s me and if they snap it in, the family will have peace. The picture will be whole. They’ll close a gap. But as I stand outside, I see no space to fit me in. The edges have gone smooth where there were lines, effaced into a place I visit, but its presence doesn’t soothe the sense of absence, or the phantom limb they scratch when vanished live flesh tingles while they touch, and say “This leg was him whose sudden loss now stings our fingertips.” That puzzle is one that still puzzles me. And looking on, I learn that I’m not free. . . Birds of Fire We swam Lake Titicaca. Our skin burned. The water’s icy waves slapped at my face as we gasped, laughing at how quick we’d turned the inhospitable into a place of sudden joy, where pintails sleeked their wings. Terns and grebes dived, heedless of the cold, plumed bodies fired by purpose, thoughtful things resistant unlike us, who were just bold. Bronchitis left us shivering in a bed of casual friends whose pity kept us on yet rued our cocky, foolish youth that led us to mistake danger for holy fun. Yet in those seconds while our bodies burned Our purpose was no different from the tern’s. . . Johnny Payne is a native Kentuckian. He directs the MFA in Creative Writing at Mount Saint Mary's University, Los Angeles. His books of published poetry are Heaven of Ashes and Vassal.