Onboard

by Mariel Norris

Your nose softer

  as the night progressed soft 

    and when you smiled it spread 

      buttery the blubber of a seal asleep 

    your eyes I could have touched 

  but didn’t green with pine 

needle flecks around 

  the pupils you spoke 

    lashes alive and me I just 

      stared at my fingers that gripped 

    the table’s edge like it was a boat 

  my fingers pressed straining 

to get on board and when 

  you laughed the table shook 

    and I shivered almost like crashing 

      to shore I shivered but still holding on

    white fingertips white knuckles 

  but your face was a rosy smear 

in my eyes’ horizons a small 

  wine sunset, flushed cheeks 

    in thinning candlelight almost 

      extinguished by the waves of your 

    laughter and my shivers and 

  the wine, wine, sweaty, 

sweet grapes my heart 

  drumming ears muting

    everything you said until you 

      thought we’d talked long enough and

    it was time to see your beach house.

  Your beach house was tall 

and white as dry bone. 

  There was no view of the sea.

    I wanted time to write a list of pros 

      and cons. I wanted to interview your mother 

    maybe your brother, too, if you had one.      

  I wanted you to know that I wore 

mismatched socks, that I loved 

  to draw fish with dreamy faces

    and to make apple omelets. But 

      there was no time, and when it was over,

    when you pounding against me in waves

  waves, stormy waves was all over 

and there was nothing left 

  but skin you held me like we were 

    in love and I told you my last name and

      covered my face in a blanket because I was sick 

    of looking at you and I thought of the time

  when I was five and I went 

to the neighbor’s house

  and she had cake on the table

    chocolate, my favorite, with raspberries 

      and she asked me if I liked school and I hid 

    behind my father’s leg and she asked me 

  if the cat had my tongue and I wanted 

to tell her that was a dumb question

  and would she please let me have a slice 

    of cake but instead I stayed behind his leg 

      and made no sound.

Mariel Norris has a BA in Written Arts from Bard College and received the Academy of American Poets Prize for Bard in 2013. She lives in the Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts in an apartment filled with crystals and cacti. She’s a special ed teacher and sneaks poetry lessons into the curriculum whenever possible. If you know Spanish, you can read some of her Spanish poems at Lavoz.com.

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