She told you of childhood summers, mayflies trembling
beside the bridge of her nose, hunting frogs. Skinning them
on a brick, the house smelling like their small, fried legs.
All she wanted was for you to carry her home in a canoe
with paddles, life vests, a flare. You promised
to teach her how to swim when she was in your arms.
Your own body, broken into so many times, became a clear lake
for her to bathe in. Remember pulling the one tiny, suckering
leech from below her neck, the pale collarbone Braille it left.
You said the boat was her shoulder in your mouth, even when
you couldn’t bear her epaulets of freckles, even when nothing
but a body would do and there was no body but her own.
Below her—lily pads, dragonflies, the worms
dug up last summer and thrown from the dock to see fish
rise in a boil—now all snapped raw in the frozen pond. And speaker,
coded “you”—what about the light straining through her dampened
hair, will you catch it in your jaws? There’s the smell of paper
on her skin and you pressing her body like a flower in a book.