Under Equuleus’ uncertain hooves we swim.
Stars rippling in circles around us, trailing, chasing
one another, the whole damn Milky Way a bath.
Virgo leans down, and Aquarius spills her water over us,
we are so submerged in starlight we can barely speak.
Scientists postulate: water retains memories.
And what of our shivering limbs, will water remember
how they grinded through the heavy paste-like darkness
as we searched for patches of warmth in each other’s laughter?
It was dark as my mouth all around us, no one would have known
if a man had held me in the water, or I disappeared entirely.
Inside my cheek a sore was forming into a black hole.
I had piled into the car that night to forget that I was falling in love,
a useless love, the kind that is a memory before it is even love.
Individual once meant two people incapable of being divided
and now what does it mean, woman incapable of commitment?
A few of us break off to swim back, the skin’s shiver
shaking the camera eye I struggle to still, at the edge
a threat of leeches, the saliva-like algae promises slippage.
The rock’s face above the waterline–– jowl free of algae,
its brow cleaned of dirt, scrubbed many years by the sun’s
muscular hands, wringing out the water
that otherwise might stagnate in our memories.
We sprawl speechless on the rock’s face, between
bright embarrassed bursts of conversation.
We’re here at the end of the world a little more than a week,
here, naked behind bushes, naked beneath the moonlight,
naked at podiums, in front of crowds… he had put his hand
on my naked thigh only in my mind, as we sat in the dark theater
listening to the kind of poetry that insists you wake the fuck up,
change your life, or at least learn how to love, and yet
was it even a question of the heart’s stuttering illumination.
In my mind I’ve given the young men nicknames: Rimbaud,
Bard, Sentinel, Lion Cub. The Bard holds the air
in his mouth like one might hold a flute, or so it seems,
as the midsummer night seems, as we all seem––
bodies with names, names with bodies, words strung up between us
like Christmas lights. The other girls dancing for a moment
out of thought, into experience. Beneath us, a forest of dead giants.
And just how do you pronounce: Equuleus? Is it like equity
or like equal, is it less, is it more or less like querulous?
Rimbaud sits naked to my right and I admire his body
without desire, his skin a slender moonbeam, ivory white
as an elephant’s tusk dropped off the back of a poacher’s truck.
I read once the fibers inside a tusk form diamond shapes.
The weight of a life sometimes pressurizes carbon.
Behind me a beautiful girl with an elfish face is staring at that body
the way I’d been staring all week at another man.
On the way back the Sentinel cradles my tired head in his hand
gently, and for a second it’s like I’m safe, in such proximity
of so many bright stars.
The Lion Cub shares a name with a boy I once loved at nineteen,
and he is thorny, the way roses growing in any environment
are thorny, because of the abuse they’ve experienced
from so many needy hands, and yet he made me laugh and laugh
ten years hence, still, my mouth will gape trying
to wrap itself around the story he told that began as jokes begin:
A man walks into a bar in Montana,
and asks what I was doing in Montana–
‘What kind of horse.’
What kind of horse indeed.
On the way back we pass a ski lift,
it looks out onto the sky, over the untouchable tips of mountains.
Unmanned, the benches just hang silently,
waiting for the movement of morning, and it’s mournful
and a little pathetic, but I wish I could just stay,
hanging statically above the weight of departure, my clothes still damp
and just let my naked feet dangle a while longer.