Shirts Soaking at the Top of Pink Water

And though we watched the dirt coil and turn

into the drain, and though I never touched

the parts of you still fearing touch —

the crown of the head, the cave of the chest —

and though we knew what we knew

but never spoke a word of it,

everything felt unclean.

For weeks the pink film

in the toilet grew, and the clay

pots boiled over.

In the carcass of a dead doe

the dog lay, she takes the skull

and offers it to the stalks of the garden.

The shirts we draped over the iron gate reek

because we hung them out to dry and didn’t check the weather

— and now look at what we’ve done.

One night it became too much, and we began.

A jagged edge I used to cut mud from the teeth

of your rubber black boots. The dress shirts

soaked in lemon juice for days,

flimsy bodies at the top of soap and water – still

smelled of rot and warning.

Broom, bucket, vacuum, mop.

A noxious kind of blue. Even then.

We gripped toothbrushes, scrubbed the gunk forming

between the tiles. That moment. You looked up

from your brush. Back bent

over, eyes behind bangs. Through that curtain

I could barely see the man

but an angel who wouldn’t claim me.

I couldn’t touch

you for weeks.

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