In the shower in the cold light of morning we admire the new rust color of
your nails. Look I hold your hand up to the red tiles they’re the same. Acres
away and in the future a stag rubs the last of his velvet against the back of a
pine. I breathe fog. The deer breathes fog. The water is too hot so I turn it
down for you. Lemons continue to grow out in the front yard. They never
seem to fully mellow, flirting just past chartreuse, falling to the ground in
the middle of the night. The pain of something like water is so much less, I
would imagine, no matter how red my skin, than the pain of being exiled
from you. We could be blood brothers now, but your palms are clean, never
cut. All my private blood everywhere, without contract. The tile fogs where
your hand has been. One of my hairs finds its way to the tile and twists
itself into an antler. I feel spent and alive, cleaned red. When my house has
a tequila night I run outside barefoot to the yard pushing past the thick
confetti of dancers into the starry cold and pick an unripe lemon, cut it
slant on the counter. We bite into it, make faces. Tastes clean.
Wrestling in the Garden with Lexi
Two bodies. No sheets. Two girls. Perhaps not. Pushing on each other timed in
silence in the garden. Image borrowed from Grecian wrestlers, in summer clothes
and half shaves. They pull each other’s legs, heels, dog-like crouch and half
pounce, pin each other as dead bees on cardboard. Okay, one breath. Then — up
again. A fist in the cave of an elbow. Neck under a shoulder’s scallop. The Angel of
Victory and her sister do not watch. This is no sacrifice at their feet. The only
etiquette: avoid cruelty.
The exchange is lightning in the background, caught only as a slick brightness on
the trees. At times when one needs a rest, she splays, back on back, over the other
and stretches open, gasping into what does not regard.
A moon of a moon has no formal name, so the question becomes what to call us.
Some dark dragged across a bluer dark stretched farther. Scratching at your
memory like the silver of a lottery ticket. Like the silver of a print left to develop
in a darkroom. Is this desire with the lid off? All four buttons of my jeans undone
with my boots still on, arms around your waist and then: my hand on the faucet
and then: naked together folded like a wing in the corner of the bathtub all clear
pale blue. You have this memory of abundance: lights sparkling at the edge of the
desert. It’s one of the only times I can remember where I did not have to leave the
beautiful thing. You remind me: my life in that city was one long sunny day.
Nights were suggestions to punctuate the bliss. The density of my living deepened
and lengthened time itself, like the way I used to drop a grapefruit at the market
into a bag and it would pull at the mesh. The lights at the edge: it must be how you
know how to greet me, with bags slung over my shoulder on your front step in the
evening, after eight months north at the drop-off. Now, party of people watching
through the glass as you run toward me. Collect me.
Laura Houlberg’s work has appeared in Michelle Tea’s Radar Productions: GLOW Queer Poetry Feature, Routledge’s International Handbook of Gender and Environment, the IPRC’s 1001 Journal, and Oregon Poetic Voices. They received an Honorable Mention for the American Academy of Poets Prize (2014) and competed nationally at the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (2012 & 2013) while studying poetry under Mary Szybist at Lewis & Clark College.