He kneels before me and lets rain wet
his head. The fire is cold. Candles remain.
Three flames. A ribbon of smoke
tucked into his cheek. I do not need
to look for it. He says I’m learning.
The sheets are the red of damp
brick dust, I lay stiff there, safe, no distance
greater, no sinking
my hands on curls and scalp,
three flames coil into locks, eyes
reflect the blue-red chili pepper
balcony lights, trees caught
halfway through their undressing.
It will never be winter here
again, no snow will blanket the gully,
no deluge to scour clean
the skin. We live packed in
tins three flights up, no place
for monsters here so we find them squatting
in the drywall, squirreled between
ribs, under the tongue,
the brimstone there, the ember
still alive. He takes me
for food. Sits next to me in the booth.
Orders salt on the rim. It is the last
drink of my life. The lime
sinks. The paper black bottom
of the jalapeno glistens as he lifts
it to me. Crisp skin and grease,
I wait for the burn, refuse to ice
the heat as it sears wet flesh. He presses
his mouth to my forehead, my oiled lips. We are not
in love but we swallow it
whole, barely chewing anymore. He kneels
before me without moving
one inch. Supplication
in the angle of his cheek, prostration
in his kiss. He scoops up brown beans
glistening with bacon fat. Holds the spoon
to my mouth. Somewhere
outside, stars burn the summer
December sky. Ducks still dip
and split the ponds. The creek still gushes.
We stop on a bridge and cast
shadows over stone. It will never be winter
here. He holds my waist.
We are not in love.
We are lit by a half