I saw you slip off your dress in the dead of night,
saw the moonlight reach through the cracks of the window
to touch your skin. You peeled back the curtain and lifted the pane
to swim through the thick Louisiana air, so I followed and
climbed barefoot up a twisted tree
and watched you melt into the bayou.
You were no longer undressed but adorned in foam.
The wind asked you to be its wife and
you nodded, solemn as the grave
and closed your eyes and let him take you.
My bones shivered into the branches as I watched
the water fall still and silent and black,
watched it take its last breath,
a corpse for the crocodiles,
watched the moon disappear like it
was never even there.
Red lipstick (I think),
but your hair fell soft around your shoulders.
You had this smile, but I could tell
it wasn’t for the camera-
you weren’t even looking at it. You-
You were on his shoulders like a bird,
little bluejay, hummingbird, raven-
sun on your shoulders, wind in your blouse,
eyes spilling sunlight.
His were looking up at you,
swearing on the universe and his father’s grave
he’d hold onto you.
I never saw your dad’s new turtle in its tank in Milwaukee.
I never told you how you looked leaning over the railing at Griffith’s Observatory. The city flickered like a jar of lightning bugs beneath us that night, but the telescopes were disappointing. I didn’t mind.
I never saw your sketches.
I never made room for you on the blanket at Dockweiler Beach. We left the others by the fire and walked to the foaming black water to investigate what we thought might be a body. I still think it was.
I never reached for your hand by the Ferris wheel.
I never gave in when you said, “You have no idea how hard it’s been not to kiss you,” and I stared at my empty paper cup, wishing I had gotten a bigger size because I needed something more to do with my hands.
I never found something better to do with my hands.
I never let you touch the scabs I got when I fell off the sidewalk after I decided I was someone who should jog.
I never touched the scars you got when your lungs collapsed and they pumped them back up like a balloon and they woke you up to breathe with your chest still open.
I never turned to face you when you kissed the top of my head. I didn’t want to move. You told me about your family instead.
I never told you about my family.
I never told my family about you.
I never put my head on your shoulder at two in the morning when we sat in a booth under a flickering yellowish light, shivering with our little Styrofoam cups of hot chocolate in our hands, trying to keep our burning eyes open as we waited for our friends.
I never met your friends from home. I think I would have liked them.
I never sat in the passenger seat of your Oldsmobile with the radio on and the windows down as we drove through Nevada, then Kansas, then Illinois, but it’s probably for the best since your car never would’ve made it anyway.
in part inspired by Joe Brainard's "I remember"
Forget the hands that held yours:
remember your spine.
Wear your hair how you like it.
Stay up late to sleep through the day.
Research what that lump is in your back.
Do nothing about it.
They tell me: You look prettier when you smile.
They tell me: You have no right to remember,
Because it made you sad.
bare feet by the creek, cold mud
it’s quick-mud, like quick-sand, slithers up
between your toes
I bet it could swallow you right up
October, maybe, maybe November
swear there are fairies in these woods,
swear it. I do. Can you eat those little red berries
that grow on the bushes?
Lullaby, say your prayers. Pray to the almighty
maker of twigs and leaves and
shallow ponds- slip and slice your toe on a rock,
don’t let them see you crying
your face was cold but your tears were hot
there are no daisies left this time of year
to make a crown with
but I’m still the queen of the forest.
You can’t laugh at me.
I’ll break your arm.
i forgot about
wishing on ladybugs.
a whisper down a stairwell,
hear words trickle like
pebbles dropped in puddles
slipping down the railing
in a dandelion puff of a mood
floating until I
climb on your shoulder and start singing
so you dance into the library
books to the height of the moon
and you’re a bowstring,
arrow pointed up toward the paper cranes
swirling by the millions
and I pull you and we take them
down in a shower of colors
and catch them in our mouths