Quick-step past the basketball court: you’re sure
to meet men, like it or not, and maybe you do,
a phone number still in your pocket.
Still in your mind, the look of one’s dark hair
spread on your pillow below you, the look
of near-orgasm and then it itself, his mouth open,
face seeming to blur and go translucent as you watch
for what is about to be exposed, sex a high-power
lens, a solvent, a means to find the good grain
there inside, sure as a fingerprint. And after,
those soaked and panting minutes when the room
leaked light at the seams and filled—
you saw he thought you, love and you thought not you
and I’m sorry. How we close our eyes to kiss and so
much else. You think of that dark, how it blooms
inside your body like hands that know more than you know
of yourself, and when you walk the blacktop daily
there are trilliums and swamp lilies in canopied shade,
their speckled throats open to spring, the mayapples’
single-flowered faith petaled white. The steps,
the purling water, the knots your mind worries—
pollen shimmying down like the cosmic dust
that blows right through us, seeding and rooting.
Half an hour away from home, you turn back and the sky,
—or the leaves, which are all you see above—
splinters: a chisel of light from whose point
everything falls, you openmouthed, drenched
to a run. You missed the leaves’ upturned silver,
that quickening language of call and response, weather
and lover of rain, missed the dimming, the draining of air
toward some gravity greater than yours. Hailed,
eyes shielded by hands and still useless, you run
between limb-stripped trees and it is good, hard
and necessary, aches shooting up the grain of your shins
and chiseling down your lungs—you go on like this,
blinded, pelted, to outrun the trees’ falling and yours.
Don’t get attached, I tell another egg,
I don’t want you. Nature is hard
and cold. Winter to spring,
the discourse of returning warblers, the pop
of new leaves, emergence of nests and flowers
are not generosity, not a sign of covenant.
We go on or not — inevitably not —
pine needles falling, some of us seeds
that drop and stay unopened and rot
back into the humus. Under the bootsoles.
My dead friend leaves two boys, my aunt
left two girls far too soon — who can say balance or
justice or natural, seeing such rupture?
And yet we do come and go, unfairly,
leaving behind something — tangible or not —
of ourselves. Where I am, what I am remains
enough. There exists, resting on loss, this
abundance, this balance, not just
or fair, not mine to tip or trouble.
Until they don’t, the seeds will drop and root,
or not, life will flourish sometimes and
sometimes languish. We pretend it could be different,
until we can’t. We are part of it, the stem,
the root, the bloom, the fruit, count us in,
all of us, fertile and barren, parts of the whole.
Jennifer Brown studied creative writing at the University of Maryland and University of Houston. She spent several years teaching college and high-school English, living on the campus of a boarding school, and teaching creative writing in summer programs. In 2018, she won the Linda Flowers Literary Award from the NC Humanities Council; the winning essay appears in North Carolina Literary Review, Summer 2019. Her poems have appeared in New Letters, American Literary Review, IthacaLit, CCLR, Stonecrop, Muse/A, and others. She blogs on Medium.com and at Howeverthink.com, and exists on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as oneofthejenns.