“The mouth of weeds
marriage.” She shivered. “It’s—it’s a death!” –John Ashbery, “Idaho”
Absence holds rings on our fingers,
bright, until each ring’s syntax is muted
with flash flood weather steaming the windows,
plies of books crushing me like flattened flowers.
Trust the rain. The view of the lake was there.
Pleased to meet you; there are no clouds here.
I gave you misguided orange flowers,
carpet burns from car seats, old sweat, and ache
swarming the depths. Only at the lake
love mis-trusts the rain your body made.
The latex condoms never decompose
in a bed of wild dampened roses.
Does a martyr volunteer on his knees?
Lick salt from all of your sweat glands? Take me.
Lick salt from all of my sweat glands, take me
to your love life (Bishop) on page 45,
bulbs of hyacinth on the microwave,
where clothing is flung, and bees
subdued, wallow in pollen, buzz
around in the brash sun. Take me to your love
life where you page and scratch through books of
skin, my own naked back, suck and feed
on sugar, an emerald humming bird.
I will scatter spliffs of flower petals
like a bloomed dust jacket. The only word
for the curled flowers, scarred nettles
of a love life dried and once crumpled,
my dad’s wedding band on my finger.
My dad’s wedding band on my finger,
prunes it like an irritant band-aid.
Textures, my sisters said, were from chainsaws.
I am not married into polished gold.
I pretend with my left ring finger to
be married like an Irish claddagh ring
with the point of the heart toward my wrist.
I think my finger is swelling into
diabetes like my Dad’s. Handicapped,
peddling with a left hand of just a fist—
how much sugar had he drunk? On a hand-
cart like a frost-bite saint. I never saw his
ring finger-less. My mom’s gift, in gray
velvet, soft as the skin of an aspen.
Velvet, soft as the skin of an aspen
bubbles out amber sap with our joined names.
My father said never carve the skin
of trees, tattoo a love symbol and pain
the tree. Still we ampersand our own promise ring.
The tree will bleed until it yearns to burn.
All in the name of the love of saplings,
pine beetles, ants, termites, skunk urine.
We will be a love of forest fire—
ferocious fire! Matches of passion
that crack open pine cones that cry,
ripe as mating fire bugs this season.
We start to carve J. A. & J. R. P.,
Field guides float in love with wild flowers.
Field guides float in a mud of wild flowers.
We lay a Levi blanket out to sink
like the dream you had. My hair fills with burrs,
rubs static through to my glazed brain, too drunk
to remember my own face. I can’t bless
this mess, but I prove my love by forest;
brush ants out of your hair with my scratched hand.
A sacred grove where God, Jesus, Man, and
The Holy Ghost are seen. Too beloved
to believe anymore that we too love
crushed lilac breath and closed-off waterfalls.
Bloomington Lake rains black and blue all day,
I read the first poem I showed you. It’s soaked.
“She performs the elementary backstroke. . .”
“She performs the elementary backstroke,
as the wedding stares at a maw of peaks.
I’m afraid this bride might sink like her veil,
I would prefer her in a swimming pool,
blue depth of the lake unknown. The dark maw
reflects off ice water like a giant bear trap;
the bride flew gently from a swing of rope.
Should the party swing to her and follow,
one at a time or wallow in lilies,
on the bank singing, when ya gonna get
mar-ried, mar-ried, when ya’gon get mar-ried,
sweet, little buffalo boy? The soaked bride
yells, the only thing real in me is clouds,
our pelvises decorated with stars.”
Our pelvises decorated with stars,
we sleep too close, and you have night terrors.
You are scared tonight because you remember
whoever wakes in the night must tell the other
I love you. We will both die, sometime.
“I must go first,” but you will have good health.
No bubblegum in your hair from my mouth,
cradled in the bedsheets singing a hymn
that can’t ever smell like me. Fall asleep.
I think about death every night now.
But I pretend I am excited for tomorrow
to wake, see who gets up first to feed
the cat. Callus drool, the way sweat lingers.
Absence will hold rings on our fingers.
Jeff Pearson is a graduate of the University of Idaho’s MFA Program and a past resident of Idaho State Hospital South. In 2017, Jeff Pearson won Permafrost’s New Alchemy Prize for ‘User Review of Medications.’ His chapbooks include Sick Bed and Location Services, which can be found on his website, http://poesyjeffpearson.com. Jeff Pearson works as a mail carrier in Moscow, Idaho.
Cover Design by Karen Rile