On the back of a graduation picture
A thousand words
suggested more than suspected
invitations and challenges confused
a journey begun ending
with the words your friend

I’ve kept the photo
for no understanding
a practical woman my sister
had said you’ll need someone
long before reading your voice

Was it me or you who called
when I drew the curtains
offered incense
just time to brush my teeth
before making out
on a plastic covered couch
neither of us heard the key

Mom went to her room
took off tired shoes
called me and said
get that out my house
I said she’s a woman
I never told you that
when I told you to go
I should have told you that

II

We held hands and watched Carson
your leg over mine
talking drinking vodka and orange juice
waiting for your folks to fall asleep
when my hand would find
the small of your back
the inside of your thigh.

I guess your mama knew
your daddy told
or kept secrets
I expected him to beat me
for loving you
Did your momma say ritual things
sing songs of womanhood
scar you.

Your smile made music
and I wrapped myself in it
as often as I could.

III

Propped on an elbow
I watched you breathe
my hand traced your breasts
smiling on my back
I watched the ceiling
as if it were the sky

finished my drink and showered hoping
you would wake
find me clean
next to you

The doorbell rang at dawn
and I embarrassed
mumbled some excuse I went
nowhere but left

He enjoyed the telling
and described you better than I could
I remember turning volcanic
until he said I wish

I painted watercolors
and didn’t know art
until I watched you walk.

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