Even at night
the heat comes down from the sky
up from the earth at the same time
to meet in the middle, chest height,
all parts of the body melting into
the center: the heart: beating thickly:
cicadas in the pecan trees, aloe vera,
lush palms and roses tangled in your hair
as you walk by, and by, and
by the bungalows, the trucks strung with
lit bulbs, round and warm,
by the broken glass shimmering in the gutter,
by the sidewalk tabletops, by the roses,
the palms, the roses strong enough to
follow you through the gate,
your heart: beating: submerged
into a pool surrounded by roses,
this middle place between two heats,
your skin like the surface of that still
pool at night: there is a layer that
holds for a moment against penetration
when you dip a hand into that wet
green, lit from beneath, looking for
We watch horror, Eli
and I, while Laurel sleeps
in the raggedy recliner, my friend
tired from too many office days
and not enough pay
and knowing time drifts now
bracken on the rivertop
moving faster than the eye can
follow. Gold sequins on her
dress glitter as she breathes.
She is beautiful, but worries
she is not.
In photos—I think of a sepia-
filtered shot, taken two days
after this night—she and I look
like the same woman. Hard to
tell us apart, our bodies and
hair swum together,
Ophelias in a Chattanooga kitchen.
Later this evening
Eli and I will go to a bedroom
not our own
fall asleep woven together
while Laurel sleeps alone.
There are still strands of her
hair on the pillow, the same
copper as mine.
I can hear her breathing
through the thin basement
walls, so little separating us
it might as well not be there.
But now here in the den in the mountains:
the creature from a Florida lagoon
backstrokes to the light—the heroine
screams—the hero leaps.
Three figures wreathed in salt-water
seaweed while bubbles constellate
burst, the monster falling away.
The movie over, the television screen turns
blue, washing over all our faces
so we all become, for an instant,
“This so gnawed at him on some nights that he lay awake wondering just how many unknown and similarly inconsequential accidents and bits of happenstance were at this moment occurring or failing to occur in order to ensure he took his next breath, and the next.”