Bodies of Water
I remember the sun taut on your back
before we dove in, and the junipers
on the hill around the cove. You set
your glasses on the concrete pier
beside your shirt. I remember waiting
till you were far out from the dock
before stripping to my underwear and
jumping into salt and brackish blue.
When I was young there was a game
we played at slumber parties. Laughing
in our nighties we made each other say
the way it felt to swim. We named
sensations: weightless, calm, electric,
free—think, even now can you explain
how the body can be left behind
in water? Can you describe belief
in being held? This, we’d giggle wide-eyed,
innocent, is how you’ll feel when you have sex.
Nearly every afternoon I’d swim
two dozen laps trying to outdistance you.
Sometimes there beside me, sometimes
imaginary, always pulling against water
until my arms were dripping with resolve.
Every day, the water held me the way
I would let no one else. At night,
I looked out on the strait, lights pooling
in the current, freighters plodding through
the passageway, ferries coughing from
their yellow smokestacks, fishing dinghies
pulling silver bodies from the seam—
everything alive and pulsing on the swells.
We’d drink raki on the balcony, eating apricots
while the final prayer calls hollowed out the sky.
You didn’t believe in the soul, the way I didn’t
believe in the body. I thought that’d be enough
to keep me. That it might be enough for us both.
These aren’t the right conditions for a spark,
so what’s electric between midnight clouds
just pulses bright and harmless in the heat.
The thunder closes in and rings us round.
There’s nothing to be done but turn and praise
the hotly flickering display, nothing
we could be allowed to say. Sometimes the
sky can’t bend and touch the earth, sometimes the
earth can’t gather in the sky. They orbit
but they never intersect. Above are
other lights, less brilliant, steadier, dim
stars beyond this canopy of cloud. But
I do not cherish how I charted them,
a traveler now willingly off course.
The only lights I carry to my bed
are those now flaring silent in your eyes.
The heart does not relinquish
what it sometimes should. Clenches
in its bloody fist some ghost sensation.
Carries in a useless circuit path a little pulse
that years lies dormant, until some errant
fibrillating memory, a waft or wine-sip
brings you back and thumps arrhythmic,
through a synapse ribbon-tape that spells
a pattern in your name.
they call it when they starve these wayward
circuits of their strength, and sever paths
from a tangled heart’s electric line. To sever
you would be a wise oblation. But even if
I should, I would not will it.
Jen Stewart Fueston lives in Longmont, Colorado. Her poems have appeared most recently in The Christian Century, Rust & Moth, and Ruminate. Her first chapbook, Visitations, was published in 2015, and her second chapbook Latch will be published by River Glass Books in early 2019. She has taught writing at the University of Colorado, Boulder, as well as internationally in Hungary, Turkey, and Lithuania. www.jenstewartfueston.com
Cagibi Issue 5