Keys and Other Gifts for Bone—Vera Hadzic

Bring soft-metalled things to the lost city. There is sorrow
in coming unburdened. Take, in your pockets and saddlebags,
silver rings which have coppered under the oils and dirt
of one same finger. Silver rings which were given as gifts,
which are carried as memories. Take, in pouches, coins
rusted to rotten peach brown, worn down and moulded,
under the weights of palms. Take knives which are not
for throat-slitting, which have known the skulls of gourds,
the neck-bones of firm cheeses, the cut of tomato vines
and the warm brown of ship-rope. Take pendants,
chains melted on clavicles, shields embossed
with hearth, home. Best of all are keys. Iron, bronze,
mineral keys, old keys worn down by years and use
and hands which need them no longer. In the lost city,
travellers rattle with the clink and tang of ancient keys
as though it is the noise of their own bones. Listen,
listen to the music of knuckle-sized metal things, hear
how the travellers ring, toll like bells or jingling purses,
how the city opens itself up to receive them. See gables 
and cracked beams swallowed by tongues of lichen,
pale white root-wood teeth digesting fallen gates. See little
fountains gutted and gagged with cords of green plant-life,
leaves sinking to solitary music. Go find
a plot of bare ground. Find a strip of grass, plump earth,
and bury your metal treasures. If you come back, after
a year, you may see mushrooms growing. They grow,
in shades of orange and stomach-white, pale, groping
stalks and hoods like kneecaps. Smelling of earth, copper,
and calcium. Or you might see weeds, purls of chewy,
transient green. Flowers which grow in crescent moon
fingernails. Listen to me, traveller. Turn your ear,
turn it to the ground. Their roots go deep. They are white
snakes in cathedrals of the dead. They live under roofs, high,
lightless, which are the vaulting sternums of fallen warriors
or they curl through fountains of water, filtering, singing,
into beds of skeletal hands. You must understand. Gifts
of soft metal keep the souls strong. It is like they are,
once again, feeling the rush and spice of blood in their
veins. It is like they are tasting life again, the grime of
human flesh—the soiled, metallic parts of spit
and skin and veinous tissue. Leave the gifts of rings and keys 
and the memory of the doorways which they opened. Give,
and go on. When you encounter antlered deer, bone-taloned
crows or snails with marble shells, you’ll know. Know your
message of life reached the interred—the remembered dead.

Vera Hadzic (she/her) is a writer from Ottawa, Ontario, currently studying English and history at the University of Ottawa. Recently, her work has appeared in flo., Minola Review, Idle Ink, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter @HadzicVera or through her website,

photo by Bi yasemin (via pexels)