FROM CUTBANK 81
In my mind, I beg our blood to work. To keep us loving
long after we’ve breached. I lean into your shoulder, not light
like a shearwater, but heavy and insistent as the horn of a goat.
The dunes that separate our maritime kingdom
from fields of corn are an elaborate set. The puppets may be
tragic, may be lonesome, full of gravity, but we are deliberate
and afraid of nothing. We kiss at the bar, tequila heavy
on our knees, like whales identifiable only by certain scars.
He slaps the water with his fin because he can, the naturalist had said.
Back at the campground, sunburnt, in the dark, we find each
other’s heads below the blueberry shrubs (because we can)
and we do so in the shape of love, which is a peninsula.
We are setting up the rain fly. We are stoned and can’t get it right.
We are inside our minds thinking, I was almost an island.
It never does rain. I never do get bored. Leaving the Cape
on Route 6, we chew taffy and listen to oldies. Here is
the bridge. We do not hit traffic. We do not break down.
I practiced on a dead possum
my father and I found on a walk
through the woodlot. After dinner
I snuck back down to the woods
where the skull hung at eye-level
in the knot of a tree and I said
“Marry me.” The possum’s other bones
lay to the side of the trail,
buried under the first fallen leaves.
Other days, I thought
I might ask it with glow-in-the-dark
stars on the bedroom ceiling,
or on the chalkboard if she got a
teaching job. We were, as they
say, not getting any younger. In
the little woodlot in Iowa
under the quiet gaze of bones,
queer theory nagged at me
like yesterday’s nettle in the finger.
There were too many reasons
why I was not supposed to want
to marry her, but we wouldn’t
have to tell. We could just do it.
Oliver Bendorf is a writer and visual artist living in Madison, Wisconsin. He is the author of The Spectral Wilderness, selected by Mark Doty for the 2013 Wick Poetry Prize and forthcoming September 2014 from Kent State University Press.