When I woke to find you staring from behind a mountain
of smoke, framed by the riotous orange wallpaper and
the delicate bedposts, I knew our story would
never be told. I knew I could not speak your name
the right way, curling from my mouth and through
my arched, frenetic fingers. We would be a story in thirds,
scattered and incomplete like gunpowder, told in your
saloon’s shadow and transfigured by high noon, melodious
footsteps, and a horse. The horse is important. I’ll
recall your hand on the flank. I’ll recall
the three nights’ ride and the foam on your knuckles
and the sweat clinging to your yellow whiskers.
Afterward, after the lies—25 years of nothing and
Our story is nothing—afterward, go back to the
beginning. Part the smoke like a woman’s hair and smear
your lips down my braid, my arms still covered and proper.
No jacking my petticoats with your sand-bitten nails, I say.
No flicker of your pupils in the fire, no heat in the
heat. I tell no nights soaking in stars and snake venom.
Just of three-feet distances between and spitting out grit,
blood, bits of sky. Above, it stretches
over and around to beneath you, so long, so old.
We tread clouds and cornbread, fingers licked, locked