In the farthest forest of my experience,
amongst ancient ferns and a sun
that shines for hours, your square shoulders are set against
the truth you’re telling me.
I always know when I’m not the only one.
I told you so at lunch, while Josh, oblivious,
stared into his soup and guessed wrongly,
to our giggles, and there’s something about
that reading of an eyebrow, the carelessness of hands
or is it, as my lover said, a hunger in the eyes?
The path rings hollow beneath my sneakers, and the sky
disappears into your voice, into the story
of the woman who you until you met
your husband. I became the thing I despised,
you say, Irony of ironies. You spit the word
and laugh nervously. Yes, I say, isn’t that the way
I know that exile. The road as precarious as the truth
on a cliff in a forest so deep no one can hear you
if you fall, a winding up and across the face of a mountain,
the easier tread belying the length of the journey,
deceptive on the edge of it.
I know this story. I smelled it on your skin
at the first handshake, and where once
I would have followed with my teeth,
now I just watch the leaves
float through my fingers.
It’s the same story, isn’t it? This is how
I came to love her, a galaxy of hers,
this is how the constellation caught in my throat,
this is what I lost in the shakedown afterwards,
this is how I fed my shadow, this song in that
frequency, shuddering the lungs.
In too small beds, in cathedrals, Spanish fountains,
sidewalk cafes, dorm rooms, basement apartments, and even,
once, in a monastery; at midnight, sunset, twilight, dusk,
hours into the day and night of four time zones, I’ve talked
this story until my voice was hoarse from sunrise,
listened until the words became one hum of I am:
I am in the silent mouth that strangles the arteries
I am in the ear of damn you to hell and against the law
I am in the throat of disgusting and why why why
I am in the eye of the concentration camp and the prison cell
I am in the skull of rape it out of you
I am in the face of the baseball bat and the gun
I am the voice of a woman in the tongue of a woman
A nova, a dare, a truth…
We reach the Fragrance Lake, still thrumming, and the light
bifurcates: silver for sunset, gold for shade,
and now, you’re asking for my story. That is how
we do this, dykes, hold each other’s stories
like the rings of a tree one inside each other outwards,
like, perhaps, any secret people,
growing deep from the roots of the world.
R. Erica Doyle