ANNE BARNGROVER


 
 
AWAY FROM HERE

Labor Day weekend, we unraveled the miles
to our friends’ trailer, a party squeezed
in its sweaty grove: to sangria in mason jars,
hymns tinkered on a piano painted green,

a river out of tune. A flock of guinea fowl—
those upside-down light bulbs—
perched in the gutters. From Tallahassee
to Sopchoppy I needled the scabs

of your small talk, snapped my bathing suit
like bubble gum, the farm road ticking off
the last moments of summer with its tongue.
We swam in a musk of no-see-ums—your

skin a September bourbon, your mouth full
of Poker—and I lusted for you the way
a pine tree pushes roots into blue dirt, deep
as the gully between two stars. Oh, love,

tonight you will drink tumbling clichés
of gin & ginger, kiss with fingers soft as the
breath before a tantrum. This summer, there
were so many women, it was as though you

dredged them from a bayou, women who knit
hipbones out of rain. You took their wild
bodies, you swear it: you imagined they were
mine—and tonight, the guinea fowl will leave

their roosts, make their way across the river
that has called to them since hatchlings.
At dawn, we find the bright feathers, snared
in water, in branches, in the mouth of a dog.
 
 
 
 

WHERE THE SECRETS GO

By now it’s your go-to: My heart just fell out,
          and can you pinpoint exactly when and where?
One of those nights when you told me all of your secrets
          while rain zinged on the roof and the washing
machine rumbled towels and boxers that I loaded, dried
          and folded into piles like stacked Oreos for you?
And like every one of your pilling socks I cared for them,
          your secrets, because I picked the lint from their navels,
lathered their armpits with cool melon suds, plucked
          their eyebrows into parentheses, and did you know
that I loved those secrets

like my middle school Tamagachis? The ones I’d tuck
          under my skirt waistband in church then sneak out
during the sermon to zap-delete their little Hershey Kiss
          turds before the squalor could morph them
into egg-shaped angels with X’s for eyes,

and I loved your secrets like the button collection I kept
          in a bedazzled cardboard box underneath some
pressed lilac and postcards from Lake Michigan, those
          days I fussed over dividing them into families
(the Woodens, Metallics, Toggles, Two-holes, Four-holes),
          and they all lived together in a Zoobooks fortress,
but then they turned on me,

your secrets, like a gerbil named Butter that was docile
          at first until she tried to assassinate me over
an organic almond by sinking a bucktooth into my finger,
          so I flung her, renamed her Margarine, but she ended
up pulped in a basement mousetrap anyway, and I know
          your secrets are more than that; I hear them scamper
through the plumbing, still alive—

and because the night I told you mine, our bodies were lit
          like eels, from the inside; an owl hooted somewhere
in the oak trees, and you cupped my face tender as a mug,
          and if anything, that’s when it happened: the best
fish in your tank disappeared. He would suction himself
          to the walls like a brown needle, and then one day
he was gone.

And then you were gone. You’d searched everywhere, sifted
          pebbles, peeled the filter, and it doesn’t bother you
at all that now we pretend not to know each other at parties
          when once we held on tighter than fingernails can go
through skin? You called when you weren’t supposed to call,
          and while cleaning you’d found a tiny skeleton, slight
as dried leaf veins, and there is my heart,

dropped behind your chest of drawers among the paperclips
          and dust bunnies, and my heart is the blonde strands
that clog your shower drain, the cockroach alight on your
          windowsill, the songbird harried from her nest,
hunted by the owl. She settles in the ceiling tiles above
          your bed, ruffles her damp feathers, pecks on
bits of yellow foam. And so,

tonight, squint above you in the dark. If you listen,
          you’ll hear her calling as the dandruff of stillborn
ghosts flakes down to your bed. You’ll see them, and still
          you’ll wonder: what are all these tiny things?
They’re still falling.
 
 
 
 
 



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