You Alone

I am alone
But with you
Desire fans
Inside
I see your face
Your hands
Your cock
And I feel
Your breath
Your voice
Your presence-
Yet I am
Still alone
Still alive
Alone and wanting
Only you
My fingers
Are you
Against the heartbeat
And desire
Burns brighter
Higher
Longer
I close my eyes
And there you are
Back with me
On me
In me
And you hear me
When I call out
To you
To you alone.

(This poem was chosen and featured by Julian for Molly Calabrese-Romantic Poetry

Dance

Slipping against and longing for
that softest touch, that sweetest taste
of skin and lust and thought before
the want between us escalates

So high to climb and come back down
to climb again against your mouth
your heat, your lust, your hungry sounds
the love we use to both surround

But wait, with hands lost in your hair
I slow you more and still, and wait
while crashing distant, almost there
I urge you on , to tease, to taste

Nothing but the hungry thought
of you hard and swollen on my tongue
will bring to me release’ onslaught
like the taste of you as both we come.

Rejection

Drip like tar or blood drying on the blade of
a word, a knife, so sharp trying to laugh
not cry, don’t cry for me, for my broken heart

Eyes like ice-water or pools of cool blue sky
they used to see me, to see need and love and hear the sighs
of lust and longing, of us in youth belonging to

Something larger, like passion, whispering in willow boughs
sighing through meadows of clover and horsetails and bowing
‘neath changing winds, exciting, enticing, inviting you in

Now cracking, this desert, windswept and aging
beneath a fire sun stroke and stoked and burning and raging
and waning, you wane for me while I burn like a star into

A cool black night, my skin is alight, my pussy is wet
and you turn your back, close your eyes, choose to not see
where my hunger takes me, in this eternal yawning galaxy

Alone.

Thoughtless

Quiet heartbeat

Boom. Boom. Boom.

Laughing in the face

Of all we assumed

The happy flirting

And encouraging words

That left their marks

Etched deep in the wood

Of a soul never known

Not worth knowing

Because you weren’t looking

If skin wasn’t showing.

And that quiet heartbeat

Becomes diminished

As it shatters in pieces

At knowing we’re finished

It isn’t my fault

Except I made you a god

I built you a place here

To rejoice or hide

I offered you shelter

A mooring to rest

And you burned down the house I built

With your carelessness.

Your careless words.

Your thoughtlessness.

Was all I heard.

Ollie

Bars on the windows. Look through them and see sky, pigeons, people on the lawn. They block sound. Wind. But not memory.

This is an institution. I live here, have for coming up on thirty years. Or has that mark passed?

They give me medications, in hopes of blocking the remembering. Big pills, little pills, pink ones and white ones and a little funny-shaped green one. All in a cup, like the ones you fill with catsup at Burger King. I remember anyway. A man don’t forget the thing that stuck him in a place locked away from everything by bars.

It was my fourteenth summer. Georgia; hot, still, sticky, cicadas screeching in the trees. It was the time of year they sang day and night, sometime in August.

Ollie’s voice rose over them.

“Sam Jay. Sam Jay, you quit! You jus’ like all them others. You a rattail possum, jus’ like that dirty brother a yours. You quit right now.”

I liked Ollie. Olivia Pruitt. Ollie to everyone but her pa. He called her Bitch.

I took my hand off her small breast, drew back like I stuck it in a hornet nest. I felt like I disappointed her, the way she talked.

“You git on home,” she scolded. “You know your ma’s callin’ you for chores. An’ don’t you be thinkin’ she don’t know what you about, neither.”

Ollie was crying. She cried a lot. I didn’t want it that way. She was such a pretty little thing, growing back in these woods like a field daisy or something. How do you tell a pretty thing like that you had great admirations for her? I didn’t know. I’d kissed her mouth, tasted the bitter coffee, warm sun of it. Only made me want more, but she didn’t give more. I was too big a disappointment.

“Don’t cry, girl,” I told her. I held her hand, looked at the jagged dirty nails and work-knobbed knuckles.

“Then why you got to be like the rest?” she sniffed.

“I ain’t like the rest. I’s better’n the rest.”

“So keep your hands in your own britches.”

I was much better than the rest. Her pa being “the rest”.

“I’m gonna get it right for ya one day. One day, when I’s growed…”

She took a swipe at a standing chicory. The blue flowers were withered by day-heat. “You don’ be makin’ no promises. No promises.”

I nodded, knowing the promise been made already.

“He beatin’ on you, ain’t he?”

Her dark eyes shifted. “None a your bisness.”

“He doin’ worse ‘an all that.” I knew what Pruitt did to girls. I saw Lucille Crabb hanging from a sourgum last summer, after she told her mama what Pruitt done to her.

Ollie turned away so I could see her profile, and her soft voice said tiredly, “You a mud-suckin’ scag, that’s what.”

“No, I ain’t. You know I ain’t.”

“You is. A mud-suckin’ scag, an’ pa says if he catch you ’round my skirt again, he’s gonna shoot ya.”

“Ollie-”

“He ain’t one to tell tales. He says you Vass boys is all the same, from your ole granpappy down. Say ever’ one a you’d poke a possum if it’d hole still.”

“Hain’t the truth.”

“You callin’ him a liar? My pa’s a church-goin’ man. He don’t tell lies, he says God be up there listenin’ an’ watchin’ an’ one day, He gonna come down on you an’ yours.”

“Ain’t never poked a possum.”

“You ain’t never poked nothin’.”

“He pokes you. You call that church-goin’ proper?”

She reached to pinch me hard on the thigh. “You shut up.” She turned, mumbling under her breath.

“You know it’s the truth. Why you stay with him?”

“Mind your bisness.”

“I want to know why.”

She twisted her spotty apron in her fist. After a time, she whispered, “I ain’t ready to die.”

I didn’t know what to say. I destroyed an ant lion’s funnel with the end of a twig.

“An’ that’s all I want to hear about it.”

So that’s all I said.

“Why ain’t you marryin’?” I asked, chewing on a stalk of sweet-grass.

We were laying out under the poplar trees, looking up their straight gray bellies. Ollie laid so the top of her head pressed the top of mine.

“I could be. Could have my pick of ’em.”

It was true. Any boy’d be glad to hitch up with Ollie. “Then why ain’cha?”

“Ain’t hardly your bisness, neither. You nosier’n a starvin’ coon dog.”

“I’ll marry you, Ollie.”

She started to cry again. When she talked, her voice had that bubbly sound, like when you stick your head in the crik and shout. “I cain’t hardly figger you, Sam Jay Vass. Not a’tall.” And her hand reached up and touched my hair. She went on crying softly; I looked up through the trees and gnats.

“So will you?” I asked. My heart was thumping off my ribs.

She was quiet for a long time. The cicadas screeched.

Finally: “You ain’t a man yet. You cain’t marry till you’s a man.”

I rolled to my belly and looked down at her face. “I’m more man than he is.”

She closed her eyes. Her heart moved in her chest.

“Sides that, I’d be good to ya, take good care of you an’ all. Ain’t that what a man do?”

Her eyes stayed shut.

“C’mon, Ollie. I care for you.”

Tears squeezed out of her eyes, left shiny marks in the dust on her face. I touched one, and she didn’t move. She didn’t swat me away. I leaned down, kissed her lips, and she still didn’t swat me away. I tasted her, and when her hands came to hold to my neck, I put my face against her shoulder and asked her again.

When she spoke, her voice was different. “Sam, I believe you’s a man. Maybe you the one can get me out.”

I wasn’t sure what she meant, I was too lost in the excitement of her. When she bared her skin to my mouth, I knew I’d do anything to keep her.

A couple weeks we went on like that, coming together out in the woods and the heat, the cicadas covering the sounds we made. The more time we spent together, the longer our time apart seemed. I wanted to be with her all the time, to wake beside her in the morning and lie down with her at night.

Then we met one afternoon, the threat of storm in the distance. Her face was streaked, her eyes swollen. There was a bruise across her mouth.

I put my skinny arms around her. “What’s it about?” I asked.

“Pa knows. He’s madder’n a sow bear, Sam. You better git.”

I held to her tighter. “Don’t have no place to go. He cain’t run me offa my own land. An’ ma cain’t care for the younguns herself.”

“You go, or you be shot dead.”

Her voice was warm on my neck, her reasoning cool and hard. I said, “Thought he was church-goin’ an’ all that shit.”

“God’ll forgive him, you took what was his.”

“You.”

We fell apart and she sat in the dirt. She touched her mouth with the heel of her hand, and brought it away to look. I don’t know what she expected to find, but she dropped it back to her lap and stared off somewhere I couldn’t see.

“I ain’t leavin’ you,” I said.

She shook her head mournfully. “You don’ get it-”

“I do get it. I ain’t dumb as all that. You come with me.”

“I cain’t leave him.”

“Why the hell not?” I exclaimed.

“You don’t understand. I’s all he got. All in the whole world. He cain’t do nothin’ for himself.”

I dropped to my knees in front of her and grabbed her face in my hands. “I love you, Ollie Pruitt. With all the heart I got.”

She didn’t say anything.

“If I fix it for you, will you marry me?”

“Sam, that’s crazy talk-”

“Jus’ answer. Will you?”

After a stretch, I felt her head move ‘tween my hands, up and down. I kissed her mouth and held her. “Then I’ll fix it for you.”

* * *

“Mr. Vass. Mr. Vass? It’s time for your medications, all right?” It’s the pretty nurse with the round face. I smile and nod at her. I tend to forget about the bars. The nurse has the little cup with the pills, and another with water. I take them and swill.

I was scared that night. It was hot and still. I sneaked up to the Pruitt house. The dogs set to barking, and the mule in the barn made the odd braying whinny mules make. The windows were dark. I knew Ollie was waiting behind one of them, watching. I felt her eyes on me, warm and scared as I was. My gut settled like a smithie’s hammer; I swallowed back bile. There was the weight of the shotgun in my hands, the one daddy’d left me. I’d cleaned it and loaded it, and had two shells in my hip pocket. But I wasn’t aiming to miss.

The dogs kept up their racket, and a light came on in one window. Seconds later, the hinges on the front door creaked as it swung, and Pruitt stood in his trousers, a battery-powered flash light aimed toward the barn. I raised the gun. Steadied it against my shoulder.

He fell. I don’t remember more than that. He fell, and Ollie stepped over him, a suitbag in her hand. She didn’t look at him, only straight at me. I dropped the gun, took her hand. Turned my back to the house.

Later, the judge said it wasn’t a “crime of passion.” He called it premeditated murder. Since I was under-age, they sent me to “school.” After my “schooling,” I’d go on to prison. But the lawyer provided me by the state appealed and got me an insanity charge. Said I was not fully in possession of my senses. The judge said fine.

Ma cried out where she sat fanning herself behind the polished oak rail. I turned to see her take hold of Ollie like I’d felt her take hold of me in times of sorrow. Ollie’s eyes were sad and dry. I’d promised to fix it for her, and I hadn’t. I’d left the gun, and whoever found Pruitt had known it as mine. A stupid mistake. And there was no proof it was anything but cold-blooded. Ollie didn’t come to defend me as a witness. They’d asked if she wanted to, and I’d seen her shake her head and look away.

I don’t hold it against her. I always was a disappointment.

The bars swim out of focus, and I feel Ollie’s soft belly under my cheek. The cicadas scream in the trees, somewhere outside the bars.

First Kiss

We waited
like gypsies on the shore
with hearts on sleeves and we spoke

We whispered
our stories to one another
in a room with a sky full of stars

We kissed
uncertain and fumbling
possessed of nothing more than a need

To be.

Wreck

It flared, a red flash behind the eyes, blinding, intense. His face swam in and out of focus. It was red, too. But it was not the red of artificial light. It was the red of life. Running over his brow and pooling in his eye-sockets like a horror movie haunt. It made him unrecognizable, the pools for eyes and the way his soul left.

Tires screeched. Someone screamed. It might have been her because she felt it, but it was too far away. The pavement pressed into her kneecaps, and the blood on her hands left tracks on his body everywhere she touched him. The cry in her throat stayed there, buried beneath the pounding of her heart that she was certain was trying to follow him into the darkness, or the light, or wherever it was he was going.

Hands dug into her biceps, pulling her back. The voices were hushed, and bodies crowded and suffocated, looking, mouths hidden behind hands, and the horror in their eyes she was sure was the same horror that took residence when passenger jets flew into buildings or bombs detonated inside daycares. It was all the same horror. It did not matter if there was one victim, or one thousand.

He was still gone.

Sirens wailed and the hands on her held her tight. She did not know why they held her, she didn’t feel like she was fighting them. But they clamped down on her flesh and cut to the bone, and the voices were urgent around the edges of her comprehension.

“You’re bleeding, ma’am,” someone said. “We need to have a look. He’s being taken care of, you need to calm down.”

The car came out of nowhere.

The song on the radio was a favorite, a happy song, and she held the wheel in one hand and tapped with the other while she sang. She threw a glance at him in the passenger seat, and he was smiling quietly like he always did when she sang loudly and off-key. The light up ahead had just turned green. The cars were going through. She didn’t slow down, just sang the chorus and cruised.

The impact was like an explosion. It obliterated everything. She felt herself crushed and pushed and realized she was where he was supposed to be, and he was gone. There was utter silence. The silence could be shock, a vacuum sucking in on itself between her ears. All she knew was that he was gone from the car, and she had to find him. She smelled gasoline, and burning rubber, and slowly the sounds came back, the tick of hot metal, the soft rhythmic squeak of something broken and swinging like a tiny pendulum and marking the seconds that were slipping away, wasted. Seconds that might have been used to hold him here, to tell him something.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. What’s your name? Do you remember your name?”

Isn’t this what ID cards were for? Her mind scrambled.

“Can you tell me what day it is?” The red light behind her eyes became a white light in front of them, and she tried to squeeze them shut, to close it out, but nothing happened, and it flashed back and forth and sent her brain into a spasm. Everything faded into blank canvas.

Maybe she would find him here, roaming these devoid white hallways. Maybe the final Polaroid, that of his gentle smile before the world flew apart around them, maybe it would be enough for the dreams of an eternity.

Apocolypse

Joker laughter

on the stairs

Harlequins dancing

devil-may-care

Cities rise

and then they crumble

into ash

and broken rubble

Babies cry

at mothers’ breast

and ancients

creep into their rest

Yet here I wait

on one green hill

For someone to say

I can stay until

My creativity

has been spent

And my voice from

my throat is rent…

But no one comes

to calm my fear

and my canvas lies here

White and bare

While stars streak fire

from the sky

and the air is torn

by battle cries

For whatever it was

I had to say

Would not have stopped this

anyway.

Angel

From this place of light buried deep in my soul
I pour out these words like a salve, to soothe you, to cool you, to make you whole
to cover and heal your broken heart, to end the sadness that softly, quietly breaks you apart-
But you don’t know me.

So dark and encompassing is this forest you haunt
lost amongst many, one in a crowd of crying souls and creatures that taunt
and tease and nip and taste and leave, but you wander, a lone wolf, a rogue wave on a still sea.

But you don’t see me.

I watch and I wait, I whisper these words against your cheek
and I treat your heartache like it was my own, like you were my own, as you scale these peaks
and fall into these valleys of shadow, and I take your burdens to ease you, and you grow.

But you don’t feel me.

Because you don’t need me.

Any more.

Runner

She watched him sometimes, watched him run down the shoulder of the dirt track that passed for a road. He never saw her, never took his concentration from the path in front of him. Never looked left, nor right.

He was young and strong, with a swimmer’s lithe build and close dark hair. Broad shoulders tapered to narrow hips, and his legs pumped like pistons firing on some inner bottomless reserve of energy. It was too far from her kitchen window to see his features, but the contours of his face were smooth, unmarred, subtly shadowed along jaw and chin.

When he ran past, she would stop what she was doing and watch, hidden behind the glass, behind too many years of sterility and ordinariness. Ordinariness. That was a new word. But it was what stretched out behind her. Days of rising at the same time, walking quietly through the same moments, over and over. Of chaste kisses and sleeping back-to-back, of cleaning and cooking and balancing the checkbook.

Then this beautiful boy started running down her excuse for a road. While she never saw deeper than the suggestion of him, he stirred a memory buried within all that ordinariness. It tore a rift in the transparent tulle that draped and clouded what passion there once was.

He ran right through it. Like a lion jumping through the paper hoop at the circus.

On this day, the fog almost hid the road from her. On this day, she stood in the yard in plain view but camouflaged by her drab clothing, by the fog and the misty rain that both was and wasn’t there. He’d run by a long time ago, and she waited at the window for him to return, but too much time passed. The quiet dread that gripped her was confusing. It wasn’t her place to be concerned. But it was there anyway, a whisper that something wasn’t right.

A truck rattled down the road. Old and colorless in the fog, its muffler loose and banging over the ruts. It cut through the cathedral-like silence. She waited.

The fog thickened and dropped, hiding the road completely. She was following her feet toward it, and the pounding in her chest and in her ears was like a heartbeat, but too intangible. A whooshing sound, like when water closes over your head and blocks out the world above.

When the toes of her shoes touched the line of loose gravel marking the road’s edge, she stopped. There were foot prints in the mud, his, and he’d been moving fast. The stride was long, each indentation gouged at the toe. Why did he run? Was his motivation the joy of the movement, the exhilaration of speed, or did he run to forget? To flee?

Without conscious decision she followed him. She walked beside his path and that pounding, whooshing inside escalated.

His stride, so measured before, suddenly shortened. The heels dug in as he shifted his weight back, coming to a full stop, both prints side by side and flat in the soft ground. Then a step forward. Then circling. She imagined he’d rested for a moment, hands on knees, then walked in a circle, checking his pulse, easing back, shaking out, keeping loose.

She tried to get her bearings in the fog. The only sound was the soft chatter of an unseen bird in the nearby grasses. And the water-whoosh. Her chest tightened. She hugged her arms around herself, beneath her breasts, and studied the tracks. The fog lifted enough that she picked them up again. They led across the road, disappearing over the hard-packed center, resuming in the soft shoulder on the other side, and they doubled back. The stride lengthened again, but now he moved more slowly, more evenly. These were fresher. Fresh enough that they should have passed one another back on the road as she walked out. Her own pace quickened, and she found her feet landing squarely beside each of his, running in tandem with an invisible partner.

Her lungs began to expand, sucking in the wet, heavy air, and her body lightened. Her footfalls became the rhythm pushing her forward, sending a heady rush of adrenaline coursing through her muscles. She remembered this feeling. It had been life when she was a child. Freedom. It came with joy and release. Later it came with sex. Then it stopped coming at all.

Until now.

A sound foreign in the quietness of the gray day joined her. Anxiety replaced exhilaration. At first she thought it was only an echo of her own foot steps. But it was off-beat. Perhaps she was catching up to him. He could have taken a detour off the road so they’d not met. She slowed. She didn’t want him to know she’d followed him, how did one explain that? To tell him that she’d worried after him, a stranger, how odd.

When her steps slowed, so did those others. She picked up speed. So did they. But now she was confused- it seemed the sound was behind her. She’d lost track of the prints, and she looked, but there were none. Only her own trail stretched behind her. She’d gone much farther than she thought. There were no turns off this stretch. Unless he’d lain in wait for her, there was no where for him to go.

Her lungs collapsed in on themselves in a heavy exhalation, forcing the air out of her body. She stopped and leaned down, fighting for breath that wasn’t there. The pounding behind her drew closer, thrumming off her eardrums like a plucked guitar string. It was beside her, close enough to touch; then it quickly faded into pregnant silence. Something slammed into her subconscious, jarring the breath back into her body.

Her eyes flew open. The tile was cool and hard beneath her bare feet. She watched as the bright smear of yellow, the little goldfinch with staring, empty eyes, slipped down, down against the glass of the kitchen window.