by Nancy Shiffrin
Hot wind. The skin around my cuticles cracks.
Something is demanded, this long slow climb
down to where you lay at the bottom of a green hill.
"Could you live like this?" you asked,
stopping in front of a clapboard house,
porch sagging, paint chipping.
You wanted me to sand furniture,
to know freedom from words.
Missouri River. Moist air, relentless green,
cardinals bloomed in the trees, orioles sang.
We swatted mosquitoes, wandered the bluffs.
A tick ran along my arm. You said,
"We'll have to be like chimpanzees grooming."
We searched each others' bodies,
more intimate than sharing bed, leotards.
Driving around Columbia, you showed landmarks:
Victorian mansion, forest at street's end, father's mortuary,
church so big you couldn't find Sunday School.
"You have to pinch its head between your fingers."
I pulled a red-brown creature off your belly,
tried to decapitate it, nails too short.
Exasperated you grabbed,
with one neat gesture did the job.
You typed my articles, hemmed my skirts.
Rust bleeds violet as clouds lower,
inky sky, thundering orange moon.
I bend over files, sort, revise, a mirage luring me on.
I wish you could know how it's turning for me.
Life crackles underfoot.
A star-shaped lavender flower opens.
I reach up and touch the hawk's blazing tail.