Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Sacred Insignia

she took his lungs
and salted them: yes:

they pickled
and smelled of jaundiced rubber:
of too-careful afternoons:
of chlorine,
smoky and ethereal,
insistent and sweet.

(she was the queen of hearts
and he was her knight,
forever doomed to treading water
for that lilied hand: outstretched,
always outstretched, but

too bright.) and smiling
from two lanes over:
palms pressed together:
she’d promise kisses
for near-drownings –

he would feign stillness
until the coldness seeped to his forehead
and he became convinced that the world
was draped in erstwhile frills –
the veering vertigo of her mirth,
to be sure.

(his lips would taste of iron
for many days thereafter:
but it didn’t matter
as long as hers did, too)

come winter,
when the water was too still to fathom
and his eyes were too cold
to see out of,
she brought him goggles,
asked him to slip
into the water. head submerged,
he drank in the chlorine
deeply. a second gulp. a fourth…

her gaze was as quiet
as it was loud. as the ripples
became smaller and smaller,
she slowly drained the pool of water,
waited three long hours  –
long after his spit had slackened –
to pull him out
and brush white fingers
against still-whiter cheeks.

that last fleeting taste
of frost –
his haste or hers?

--Stephanie Guo

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