when he shucks me

For 3 years, we have lived
3,000 miles apart.
 
Every day, California calls me
or I call him,
and the distance shucks off
like the green
that blankets an ear of corn. 

For a couple of years, 
I lived for that shucking, 
lived for the moments
when the miles fell away
and I was no longer
just an East coast girl. 

I was his girl, his princess, 
the lady of his heart.
 
More than that, I was bare 
as one of those ears of corn, 
exposed and vulnerable, 
ready to be eaten 
or devoured. 

Here I am, I felt like saying, 
when what I really said 
was a simple hello. 

Through words and letters, 
we wove our dreams together, 
pretending we wove our lives. 

Twice he flew out to see me, 
and for a few short days
my life was all puffy clouds
and daydreams 
only I wasn't dreaming. 

I'd pinch myself 
after he kissed me, 
leaving little crescents 
from my fingernails 
in the fleshy part of my arm. 

Now it has been two years
since we've made love, 
two years since anyone 
has kissed me
the way he kissed me, 
his hands cupping my face, 
his whole mouth drinking me in. 

I don't dare say 
we're growing apart, 
but when he shucks me now, 
the green no longer
all falls off. 

California, my California, 
you've never seemed
so far away.

halfway to the dairy farm

You are poetry--
your words distilled,
your personality fiery 
with a fierceness
that I both love
and fear. 

Elusive, I find you 
in the briefest moment
between sunset and full dark
when the sky's inky violet. 

Far off down 
my one lane country road,
a pair of headlights
comes careening. 

I step off to the side
step into the rows of corn
and hide until the lights
flash by me, 
standing in the high corn
until my eyes readjust
and I hear the car
backfire as it rides the bend. 

I'm halfway to the dairy farm
a mile down the road.
The sycamores are white as bone. 
Above and between them, 
bats slash the summer air 
with their chaotic flight,
diving and twirling 
dark shadows that dip 
too close about my head. 

It is summer and you, 
you are oil to my water, 
rising--always rising
above.

brightness

I'm splintering, 
fracturing.

The monster inside me 
is winning the war. 

The room tilts, 
everything is bright, 
a sterile white, 
the shadows only spots
that swim lazily
across my eyelids 
when I close my eyes. 

I close my eyes
too often now. 

The light is blinding, 
the absence of shapes
confuses me. 

The couch, the walls, 
the Christmas tree 
still up in July. 

All blend
into the brightness
that pulses.

This is not a drunken poem. 
I am not an alcoholic. 
I don't sit 
alone by my phone
waiting for texts 
that never come. 

I am not a broken woman. 
This is not a shattered heart.

holding onto my altitude

I'm lost again, 
rambling sideways and down,
always half a step from the edge. 

It would take a stiff wind
or a stiff drink 
to make me fall. 

I'd go down and down
seeing the latter's rungs
flash by me as I fell. 

Reaching out,
my fingertips would tap
tap tap taptaptap
faster on the latter's rungs
as I sped up
on my way toward 
the rocky bottom. 

But I am not falling. 
I'm weaving, 
holding onto my altitude, 
recklessly, stupidly
in love.

to be wild, to be free

He asked her what type of animal 
she'd most like to be. 
Without hesitation, she replied, 
"An auk." He wrinkled his nose, 
confused and dismissive, 
skating over her answer 
to answer his question himself. 
"I'd be a lion," he said. 
"King of the jungle."

They sat in silence, 
on the edge of the concrete wall
that bordered the parking lot
outside the youth center. 
Sweat beaded on her forehead, 
and a single drop
slid down her temple. 

He jumped down and began to dribble 
the basketball, every so often
tossing it against the wall
and scrambling to catch it 
as it bounced back. 

She sat and stared, seeing not
the cracked asphalt 
and peeling paint, but instead
the glistening of the sun 
on the surface of the sea, 
imagining the salt spray 
and the whoosh as she, 
wings spread auk-like, 
dove down to catch
a single gleaming silver fish.  

In that moment, she could both fly
and swim. She wasn't too thick 
for the desks at school, too heavy 
to jump rope, too rounded
to wear a stringed bikini. 

She was no longer the only girl
she knew who couldn't swim, 
the only one who wore a bulky 
orange lifejacket
when in girl scouts 
they'd practiced paddling a canoe
in the deep end of the city pool. 

As an auk, she was sleek
and beautiful, diving down and down 
into the glass green sea, 
finally in just the right body
to be wild, to be free.

further down

The day skitters past her, 
shadowy and elusive. 

She reaches for it, 
but it slips and wriggles
like salmon fighting upstream, 
always upstream of her, 
just out of reach. 

The shadows lengthen, 
the sky greying 
as the fireflies 
punch through the gloom 
with their tiny lanterns
winking and winking. 

His face lights up 
in the flash of a match 
behind cupped hands,
and the scent of smoke 
snakes across the shadows
that lie between them, 
secretive 

like the way he used to talk to her
back when they shared a bed, 
tangled up their limbs and lives. 

He was always a sharp breeze
away from closing off, 
always one whisper away 
from telling her he loved her, 
and she imagined some nights
after they'd finished having sex
that he'd grabbed her hair 
in his fists
and pulled her face to his
and kissed her open mouth roughly
instead of pushing her face
and open mouth down, 
always open mouthed
and sucking 
further down.