How You Call Me

The first time you say my name
you comb my hair
with your words
my bird’s nest of black
and your gnarled mouth
kneading

And when my tresses scrape my chin, your lashes beat across my skin, the softest voice whispering in my hair as I brush it back behind my ear

In your clementine sweater, your hands peel
your scarf from your neck
your bag from your shoulders
your glasses from your head
if you could peel anything else off
the juice would run down your legs
instead of my hands
and what a waste
that would be

But I am no dog and I will not wait
for you to shower sweetness on me like
spit when you talk
I still weep your words
from the citrus saliva in my eye
and stubborn I am
when you say my name again,
one year has passed

My head was untangled in your leave
and my hair, a straightened spider’s web
ponytailed pretty
to catch your new gaze
wandering
down my spine
but you aren’t interested
in rough play
wrestling
out of my wagging tongue
unless you are the mead and vinegar
that attracts the bug

So standing ten feet apart in a cramped lecture hall
I climb to the emergency exit
so I don’t step on your toes
and hope if I am cruel, I am loved
but a self-exiled Rapunzel
I am anything
but myself

I crawl back to you.

And when my patience has run dry
you say my name and
I see a shadow in your voice, its riverbed
of rocks and buried feelings
in the absence of sound, a lingering touch
a collegial gesture from my non-dominant palm
to your right
fingers wrapped at the wrist
condensed moisture, perspiration
and I wonder whether that was it at all
in the paperwork that switches hands
and falls like snowflakes
on my flattened quills
defeated

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