Volume 9 (Spring 2015)
I am going to leave you, and it is going to hurt.
I said this to myself before I could say it to you,
although I never did. I said simply, I can't
remember the last time I said I love you.
And yet I almost said it then
as you straddled my stretched legs
and sobbed one little stream, your hands
bracing my knobby shoulders, and your hair,
I don't remember how red it was,
but your throat thumping my face reminded me
that what love we had left felt
like the marriage of sandstone and wet lips—
shark skin, touched in the designated manner
(two fingertips extended in a lesser scout's honor)
as the fish swims the Touch Pool, or doesn't,
having tucked one side as much as it can
under coral ringing the wall, the rest of its belly
plump in pH current, waiting to be pet—
not wanting it, but knowing what people do
when they've paid a steep price. I'm not stupid,
you said, and I see now I wished you were,
that your inability to know me would make you
take and break the branch we each
gripped at either end, and you'd unfurl your fists,
let halves fall to be swept off by flood,
or children playing pirates, or some
domesticated lycanthrope. Instead, I tossed the stick
behind us into woods, and you, dew-eyed in the grass,
looked over your shoulder to the clatter,
turned your tented brow almost carelessly back,
and watched me leave you there,
where no wind tousled your hair, red as burning white
curtains. Through my kitchen window, I see now
what must be my desire for and distances from you,
come in the form of two dumb Labradors,
each clutching, as they gallop up the yard,
one end of an excavated, spit-splotched branch,
either dog tugging its end to one side
of a thick red maple. The trunk and limb
bounce the mutts back at every crush,
ears and lips whipped forward, slackened
after each clack. Damn them if they don't keep trying.
No, I mean Damn them—If they don't keep trying.
If either knows the branch won't break.
If that tree's leaves and rings won't sing, and forgotten
possibilities of you never come slobbering again
at my back door, carrying no sense of the real world
they will never quite inhabit. If I ever believe
they're just gust, and breeze, and still.
Tim Lynch conducts workshops with young writers in Camden, NJ. His poems appear in War, Literature, and the Arts, HEArt Online, APIARY, and more. He is former Poetry Editor and current Associate Editor at Cooper Street, an online literary magazine produced by MFA students at Rutgers-Camden.
On Libations: At the bar, Dewar's neat. At home, dark rum, a little lemon and lime juice, and one or two rocks, because who am I trying to impress in my pajamas?