At the end of the pier,
light on a rocking boat.
We walked away from land
and our rented cottage.
Beneath us the planks groaned.
I heard myself speaking love words:
over the smack-putt of water:
We went on walking.
There was nothing to do but approach.
By the river on the artificial island
I led you to a downed tree.
The twisted elm upended
in some winter storm.
Underneath, where roots had been
soil like cinnamon,
a cavern studded with seashells, tailings, decay.
From the rooted part
new spears grew. In the iron light,
mercurial, shifting with March,
they glinted black
then shone red, like a wound.
I took you to the summer-house.
I took you in January.
A tree had fallen on the power lines.
Our heat and pipes were off.
The light was as I’d never seen it, lavender
over barnacled dinghies.
Winter colors torqued off kilter.
Emeralds glowered. The sea was orange sherbet.
In the house, everything was boxed—
silverware in baggies, platters wrapped,
towels mothball-packed away.
Still we lit the brass lamp in the bedroom.
I struck the gas and roasted you a chicken.
I served you wine and oranges.
And underneath the quilts that night,
I tossed, dreaming of mice
nesting in the unstrung double bass.
I felt the brewing storm.
In the dark you came to my doorstep:
The door flapped in the wind.
Although you slept beside me,
you were outside. You could not get in.
Tess Taylor is the author of the chapbook The Misremembered World, published by the Poetry Society of America, and The Forage House (forthcoming).
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