Back to Issue Eighteen.

as the rockies slaughter the dodgers, i spot my married lover's doppleganger

BY SARA HENNING

 

I’m palming the air for the four-seam
            fastball, the miscarried crack of the pitch
                          hurtling toward the stands at the bottom

of the first inning, and its not June’s
            unseasonable clutch that’s unfocused me,

not heat suturing my t-shirt
            to the vale between my breasts
                          that’s caused the ball to ricochet past

my head. It’s the man whose eyes are
            an eroded coastline, his irises radiating rip currents,

spindrifts, the man who grasps the tan
            thigh of the brunette leaning into him,
                          though she’s easily half his age. I’m watching

her teeth slide through the bratwurst
            he’s bought her, its mustard lacquer radiant

in the light. I’m watching her tongue
            the thick moons of meat, swallow each
                          like a hallowed stone. Are we drawn to love

by the mysterious transparency of the human
            body? Rather, does the body lapse into metaphor,

divulge itself in tangible terms? In my metal-
            backed seat at Coors Field, I’m trying not to think
                          of the fan that died laying hands on a foul, how fear

forced his six-year-old child to watch.
            I’m trying not to think of the Texas Rangers out-fielder

tossing the souvenir foul to the stands
            that forgone summer, or the fan, an off-duty
                          firefighter, trying to catch the ball for his son.

But isn’t this the nature of desire?
            The ball’s force tethering his hold and slip,

the boy standing afterwards in the country
            of lost words, hand seizing the rail that
                          couldn’t stop his father’s fall. Tell me, isn’t this

desire—how the child stood, replaying
            his father’s twenty-foot dive into the scoreboard,

how long he traced the dead body
            with his eyes? As the sliders, strikeouts,
                          and benders unveil their soliloquys before us,

I’m back to the brunette, how she presses
            her Blue Moon to her jugular notch, her flushed

skin winding inward like the lobes
            of a rose petal before she drinks. I know this
                          barehanded way of literalizing oneself, as if to say

my body is the suicide squeeze at the bottom
            of the last inning, as if to say desire modifies us.

I watch her skirt ride up as they sidle out
            of their seats, her thighs marked by the scorching
                          metal. I watch her body as the scoreboard pulses

images into the sun’s dusky arousal and he
            follows, the glare eclipsed by the mountains.

I’m watching her calves, jealous of how
            the muscles rise and fall as she climbs the bleacher
                          steps like a throat, undulant, swallows a necessary water.

 

 

for my uncle, who has learned to fly

BY SARA HENNING

 

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October

James Wright, “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio


On nights hawk moths cyclone
            and plunge into my car’s low beams,
                         I’m convinced they are bodies in love—
            forewings ricochet against parabolic

reflector in cadence, thoraxes pelt the cool
            whelm of glass. Because spring thaw
                         suffers them into the crosswind’s whirl
            and dirge, the din of the suicidally beautiful

becomes a ruthless bell. When I learn
            that celestial routing contrives their spiral
                         flight paths, not longing, that my light’s
            brutal ploy is only deception, I think

of my uncle, knees down in wild violets,
            the day my mother broke his arm.
                         I imagine the clash over a blue ukulele,
            his ulna hewn by its cheap,

laminate wood, the way the nylon strings
            feathered his skin. I want to touch his cast’s
            exhausted foxhole as he secrets his pain inside of it,
            to curl into its raw cotton.

I want to close my eyes over nights
            their father forced them into the cellar,
                         urged him onto his sister with joint locks
            and vital point strikes to teach

her a lesson, his body thrust forward
            by their father’s slurs. Years later, grinding
                         his thighs into boot-marked bleachers at the rodeo,
            my uncle watches cowboys

launch toward steer bolting from spring
            -loaded chutes, watches for hands full of horns,
                         man given over to adrenaline and dust. He’ll gaze as man
            seizes beast like a child

held between another child’s palms,
            the clutch a lapsed intimacy. Before my uncle
                         leaves for boot camp, he’ll grip his sister’s wrist
            until she vines her fingers around 

his plush thenar eminence, his thumb
            like blunt cut sage. It is the last time his hands
                         will plot her vein’s smooth tributaries, trail
            the map of scars to her pulse.

Next winter, a bullet will sing its way
            into his skin. But for now, like honey
                         -suckle helixing hardest at the root
            it betrays, she won’t let go.     

 

 

Henning 18

Sara Henning is the author of A Sweeter Water (Lavender Ink 2013), as well as two chapbooks, Garden Effigies (Dancing Girl Press 2015) and To Speak of Dahlias (Finishing Line Press 2012). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as MeridianThe Cincinnati ReviewQuarterly WestGreen Mountains ReviewCrab Orchard Review, and Rhino. Winner of the 2015 Crazyhorse Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize, she is currently a doctoral student in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as an associate editor of Sundress Publications.

Next (Jim Whiteside) >