by Suzanne Burns
Remember the December afternoon
my bones spoke to your bones?
Beneath my lace shirt, my clavicle
just waiting to be noticed, its
close-up collared around my neck
as it strained towards that one
spectacular blue shirt. A shirt
even Daisy Buchanan would notice
with her West Egg voice full of money.
Your bones brushing against my bones
makes me rich in a way that feels
stronger than Jay Gatsby’s diamonds.
Who needs a narrator when our bones
translate the longing of skin into structure?
In that one embrace my thoracic curve
danced towards yours better than a waltz
in any old movie. Of course my heart gallops
beneath my bones when your blue shirt nears,
but what about the others? Twelve hearts sit
inside my spine and inside your spine, our
vertebrae faceted together in bony gossip
as they conspire to break each other open
and see the hard love tokens inside,
for skeletons yearn without permission.
If you could only see the way yours
walks towards me before your heart
or mind have a chance to catch up.
If you could only see the way mine arranges
each outfit into the fashion of flesh waiting
for your bones to undress. My locked
jaw, my clicking of ribs, how they realign
to accept your ribs, the brutal crush of symmetry,
the ease of a perfect fit.
I have you in the way
of not having you.
This means we will never fight
over how to cut a tomato
or how to make a bed,
though you could douse
a mattress in gasoline
and throw the match my way if,
before the burning,
I got one chance to have you
beyond not having you.
Your newfound muscles are a way
of touching without having you,
a game of hide and seek,
the growing hardness beneath,
though I would linger just as long
if you had no muscles,
if you were soft,
if you were only bones.
If those bones, someday, took up
residence in a science class
I would break in at night
to waltz you around the room
until Love asked me to, please,
love you a little less,
this skeleton who still loves being loved.
The last time I saw you,
your left hand became a deity,
the veins beneath branched,
the Stations of the Cross
of a religion you don’t belong to
and I’ve forgotten to follow,
the blood beneath your skin
holy because it’s kept you
standing this long.
If I had you, then,
I would have touched your hand,
almost smelling of the future
burnings between us,
but felt grateful you did not
belong to me because,
if I touched your hand the way
I’ve always wanted to touch your hand,
I would never be able to figure out
how to let go.
Suzanne writes both poetry and prose in central Oregon. She is currently working on a new novel in between competitive baking at local county fairs.