They will call me reckless, and maybe they’re right—
my heart shifts like a loose tooth even now.
Remember the summer I woke with my body vibrating,
like thin glass tapped with tuning fork,
that particular whine of a beautiful thing struck
and singing? Days grew dull, silence draped, clinging
to things unfilled. Refilling my drinks,
I’m murdering time until the dark night
offers itself up bruised. Here in Indiana,
my skin is clean, markedly untouched. Remember
the summer I swaggered through town, unashamed,
the scent of rough mermaids spilling
from between my legs, how fighting was all just play,
and you kissed me so good I bled through my tights,
period off schedule, startling us both? I don’t offer myself up
as easy now, but still it is easy, the offering.
If I stood by the window, you might see me, pressing
tongue to unmoving tooth, trying for the pain
of something near to lost. Here, they tell me
I’m pretty, as if beauty has ever made anyone stay.
Here, my body is quiet,
humming at a low frequency
no one detects.
All the young kids are tying knots—like sailors with identical maps,
duplicate treasure marked spots on sand. How they will swarm the continents;
how the babies will overgrow and slip into the seas for them.
Once, I fell in love and was lost for decades,
stuck in the dream of shark slick rubber, cutting teeth,
the widening darkness of a throat open, devouring romance.
All the endless map making, all the parchment.
I fear the whale, the waiting and cavernous gut,
the kind of dim that mimics my desire for charting a way in.
I slip easy into seclusion, swear allegiance to the wide blue.
Birds crowd my shoulders squawking: marriage, matrimony, nuptials.
But for you, I fear I would limit my measure to island space,
rope off the edges, cut out the sea. This is not what I should want but it tides in me.
Let us discard our white flags, sway the wild ocean.
Let us stay slick, childless, all our fingers uncovered.
For you, I want to make my way through the waters,
take to the deep despite my fear
of the way the sea goes
down and down.
She secured my hands to the bedposts,
as if I might consider leaving.
Wrists contradicting the headboard,
I pulled against the leather belt and stayed.
We talk about Jesus, sometimes,
but mostly there is a kind of self worship here.
Later, we slant the lip of the windowsill,
bow out, watch cars sprint the Interstate.
I count each band:
space, three cars, space.
We root to her mattress, twine tangle
of skin and sheets.
We twist away from each other.
At daybreak, rain suffers the sidewalk,
A string of cars secures the highway,
a still shot of reverent motion.
She says I can be selfish,
this isn’t always about love.
I investigate my wrists, search for shadows
of rotten grapes, find only the wistful branches
of my veins.
The daffodils below, sweet from rain,
turn their backs to me,
lower their heads.
About the Author:
Katie McClendon is gay, glittery, glamorous, & gritty, rough, tender, fabulous, & pretty. She currently lives in Austin, TX and her work has been published in Crab Fat Magazine, CutBank, Juked, and Smokelong Quarterly, among others.
About All Accounts:
All Accounts and Mixture is an annual online feature celebrating the work of LGBTQ writers and artists. For this series, we seek work from authors who self-identify as “queer,” while acknowledging that this designation is subjective and highly personal. Our goal is to provide a forum for writers whose voices might be mis- or underrepresented by the literary mainstream.