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Poetry: Gretchen Marquette



Summer was almost over.

The hallways of the junior high school

were already breathing, the pool

filling, the mirrors in the bathrooms

had begun to blink. The scars gouged

into the flame resistant tables

in the chemistry lab started their ache

for AP who loved RS

4-ever. Tubes of florescent

light were being replaced, floors

were being waxed like lips.

That night in the basement

guestroom, last slumber party

of summer, shag carpet, unfamiliar

bedspread thin and slightly damp—

the only light came from a faux

fireplace, a hot orange Christmas

bulb, a spinning tube

of foil. Logs made of the same

plastic as your Halloween mask.

The shadows on

the walls danced like fauns.

When she put her hand

under your pajama top,

on the small of your back,

you left it there, didn’t you? You felt it

move a fraction of an inch

and then stop,

you saw the blood move

in every finger, like she was lit

from inside.

I want to wait until she

falls asleep and then

I want to tell you:

One day it will return.

You’ll be thirty years old

and the most wistful

you’ll feel is remembering

this fake fire, the particular

orange and shudder of it,

and you’ll want it back,

smaller this time,

made to fit in the palm of your hand.

Or else large,

large enough to illuminate all you have

and then burn it down.

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You returned, only

for a quick look

and nobody was there

so you stayed,

began a salvage

mission for the stilled

swings in the park,

white and winged

like swans, the river

rushing its

cargo of fallen trees

toward the edge

of the world.

The woods around

your house still

hid rabbits, larger

than dogs, jewel-

eyed and severe in their

gratitude—all that lettuce,

all those years. The deer

left their hooves for you

in the sand near the mulberry,

and lifted their bones to fly

over the neighbor’s

fence. Watching them,

it still smacked

of trickery.

You began your collection

with the smell of decay,

desiccated toads

in the plastic pail, the leaves

at the bottom of the pile

and the phantasm

of the squirrel, her body

too far out

in the bracken

to be found.

You chose blossoms

of strawberries, white and

yellow like eggs in a pan and

the neat bouquets of lantana,

your mother’s

(mother’s mother’s)

favorite. It’s enough

to split the cerebellum

to say that she loved

lantana, and you love

lantana. To know: same teeth

chewing irrational fears—

Wolf spiders. Fast

water. Feral cats

from the quarry

yowling, All we want

is a little lap! Milk!

Give! Give! Give!

In the nest, the robin’s

white rimmed eye, her

eggs warm and sky

colored, songs unfolding

inside cells.

A field of poppies for a girl

to dowse herself in,

a thicket for a fawn

to hide. The wind

and the siren, the piano

and the dish of candy

like green glass. Strings

of lights hushed with snow.

Elephantine clouds, grey or

pink, clouds with

the given names

of gods—Nimbus.

Cirrus. Uncle

holds your hand, says

Red sky at night,

sailor’s delight. You look,

but this is all you can carry,

can you let it be enough?

All rights reserved to Gretchen Marquette.

Poetry: Tim Kahl

Poetry: Gretchen Marquette