And How They Said the Hurt and Son
Dad always had scruff around his mouth
and eating apricots together, the juice would
dribble down our chins, so sticky and sweet.
Being older, these are the moments I think about,
smiling, still messy, our cheeks stiff with juice,
and how hot our blood, this, inevitable in Tucson heat.
Since, I’ve forgiven a lot about the desert: that cactus needle
in my thumb since I was seven, my skin still swollen.
And now, my burnt eyelids, hurt closed and hurt open.
That moment, though. Where we touched hands,
breathed without speaking, and our heady bruises,
suddenly made clean. That, then, absolved of summer:
in this, 110° heat.
Wasps, in Three Parts
The wasps were bigger than my dreams.
At night, I heard their wings beating against
their bodies, and me feeling the swell of my throat.
In another world, I was standing in a field
of honey & lavender- and as my feet rested
on the bloody ground of Provence’s wheat,
I felt the buzzing only above, only below,
the wings against my feet. All these years later,
I am still thinking about my elevator throat and
the blood welts that just won’t stick. This Summer,
the touch of this place, the humming wasps
and my body, still inside the moving
beat of my heart.
He wanted to know what the swarm looked like.
That night as I moved inside his shoulder he
held me still, and I counted how often my chest
collapsed into his still moving body. My mouth
moving against his back.
I tell him: the night Dan was taken by the wasps,
we drank lemonade on the porch. Later, when we kissed,
I could only think of the salt flats that rose from timber.
And then, how they came for him, all in a cloud,
and I could only hear the drum of my heart and this,
the drum of the swarm. Their yellow jackets proud
against the adobe desert.
When I saw Dan in the hospital, tenderness
was erased by the brutality of my love.
His blood on my hands, the purple of his
lips, all too like the nights I saw him in half-light:
the erasure of my touch, this gentleness. And now,
when I kiss, it begins with bitterness, the sky
turning to salt.
I am grateful to my body
for the swell, that hum,
the way it hurt, not at all unlike
the sun against my neck, this
broken body in my palm.
It’s stinger too like, all that
eviscerated me, my knees, and
the place by the pool.
And me, moving against the
memory of breath, your handprint
against my window. The
reverb we left behind-
the only proof we were there
He gave me the gift of sadness;
leaning down to my shoulders
and I did not need to ask what
he meant by those words.
Being younger, it was a long time
before I learned how to speak.
Here am I, hoping for the blood
to dry on these three lips,
Somehow, mother knows that it is
not like me to love and tells me
stories of her wandering in the desert,
how she met my father and Moroccan tea.
I’ve forgotten the nursery rhymes
to that hymnal long ago. And there,
in my bed before sleep, I only felt my
throat close and her hand on my chest,.
Some days are easier than others,
and knowing what to say when the
black goes out. All these years later, I
am still thinking about child: the
things I did not get, how caverns
form, and that place at the back of:your throat where the darkness is:
your throat where the darkness is:
In all of these ways,
I am in love with you.
Not knowing what that means.
And not knowing what that means,
and not knowing
that sound: your heart and
the bump in the night.
Eleanor Allen-Henderson grew up in Tucson, AZ. She loves the desert and her friends. Her current apartment is less than 200 square feet that she makes less lonely with poems and pictures of her parents. You can occasionally find her ranting about war and other bullshit she doesn’t like. Her bottles of choice are Orangina and the tears of boys.
Photo credit: Jacqui Oesterblad