She watched him as he turned away from her. She’d gotten used to looking at his cheeks. She knew, well, how the shadows in the hollows below his cheekbones changed shape under different light. She could tell you, with closed eyes, what kind of constellations the freckles on his face formed, and she could draw from memory the little mole right next to his right earlobe. She knew the small bump in the bridge of his nose and how the tip rounded out after a downward slope. Sometimes she lost herself in the midline of his mouth, entranced by how it shifted minutely at the corners depending on his thoughts, how different it was pressed into a hard line than when he was wearing her favorite easy smile. Sometimes his eye color surprised her. Sometimes she forgot the flecks of amber hidden in his green and the small dot of yellow usually hidden by his eyelids that made an appearance when his eyes were held wide. The profile of him was so familiar, but face on, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was looking at a stranger.
I anchored it all in the heart of the earth
To keep safe in her terrestrial arms
To feed the soil and bring up daisies
to be her crowning jewel
glinting at the firmament
But it wasn’t so much a quake or tremble
The grasses never wavered
The branches never swayed
And not a petal parted from a rose
But I felt it, nonetheless
In the suspended body at my feet
Hanging in a balance of whirling in a dance
With the Sun
And whispering her secrets to the Moon
There was no sign or signal
No change in the wind or tides
But it sang to my bones, unmistakable
Candy floss hair
And her tongue tastes like
Melts to nothing
In the rain
I am waiting for a line. Do you know what I am meant to say? I keep slipping through the middle. I am her and there and everywhere. I think I could speak Portuguese, Mandarin, Finnish, and Japanese. I have a Russian accent with a twang of Afrikaans. I speak the language of the universe. I hear the whispers of the Milky Way and the screams of isolated earths, all afraid they are alone. The static of the big bang, the ripping of black holes and expanding gases, the sighs of dying stars. I know the hums of growing grasses and the creakings of all the trees. I see every ant and every galaxy. I see the pattern of existence. But it is slipping and so I am, too, pulled apart by the weight of all these spinning things. And now I think I may be just a girl with a cup of tea that’s gone cold. A turning of the silver spoon to combine it all again, and the milky swirls seem so familiar, but I can’t quite place them, white silhouettes on brown. Something wants to tug at me but I am too far for its reach, and so it is only as forceful as a fly landing on my shoulder. I shrug it off just as easily and I sip from the teacup, heavy and tepid, costing my tongue, anchoring me to this cafe. And the veil, it flutters away, turning, twisting tight in on itself and disappearing. There’s no more slipping. I am grounded, and gravity feels crushing. But there is tea to swallow and a book to read. I don’t remember what the stars said.
My local pet store sends me adverts specifically tailored to cats, and this week the header was “Love never means having to beg for treats.” What was the coupon for? A fish tank.
She liked the faded ink on his arms from the needling of an untrained tattoo artist who did them for free out of his kitchen. She liked the little scar above his lip and the thick one like a rope wrapping around his knee. He liked her little nose and her fingertips and the mole below her breasts. He liked that he could smell her before he saw her in the mornings. He liked that he still expected her copper hair to smell like pennies, but instead he found the scent of her rosemary shampoo when it fell over his face, without fail, from her tossing and turning in the night. He liked her lush, pink lips and how they looked like a bloom in the snow against her skin. She liked his scraggly face and how it made her neck red with irritation when he nestled against her, but he liked her to stay cream colored and whole. He liked to look at her when she didn’t look at him, and he liked to feel the pads of her fingers, warm and cool all at once like aloe vera, tracing the map of him, studying the routes and shortcuts and hidden pathways across his geography. He liked when she held him, and he settled into her like a warm pool, her form curving around his and keeping him there.
He liked to watch her from afar, how her face looked when it had no audience, how her eyes changed when she lapsed into fantasy, how her face and lips twitched subtly in rhythm with imagined conversations, how she hid it again and he saw how the shadows of her mind fled from the planes of her face in an instant to take refuge in the corners of her mouth and her cupid’s bow the hollow between her brows and eyes. Sometimes he thought he saw them, too, in the curve of her nose. They danced when she took inventory of his tattoos and scars and crookedness. They swirled like eddies in a river when she stroked his ruined skin with impossible gentleness, when she kissed his neck or his shoulder or his bad knee, when she listened as he spoke in earnest, focused on the white mark of where he split his lip. She liked the story of him, and he hated that.
I do not yield to distractions nor make of them much art. I see clearly the path ahead and put foot in front of foot to follow it. I do not stray to the edges nor list to the hidden trails whispering ofshortcuts. I take the long road, uphill and around the bend and riddled with potholes and ditches from erosion. I leave the garden paths for others to get tangled in the brambles and weeds. There are no weeds for me, but there is dirt. Great, damp mother Earth who so kindly gave and now I take. And there are those who would say that this dirt is unbeautiful, bland and devoid of life, but they have only been taken by the siren’s song of the forest with its blooms and branches and dappled sunlight. What they do not know is what I know, that they are rooted in the Earth, and in so being are not truths but deviations. They bend in the wind and sway to different directions, but if those haughty men cared to follow their stems and trunks and delve down into the soil they would discover their roots held fast and reaching, reaching under my path, snug in the damp Earth. It is not the sweetness of the rose nor the lacing shadows of the tree. It is not beautiful; it does not entice or prance or vie for your attentions. It is patient. It shows itself through what it is not, and you must forsake the other things to find it.