At dusk, they come haunting to slake their hunger:
doe and fawn threading autumn brush. Down hillside,
through hollow, they search for fallen apples—rotten spoils
of the abandoned orchard Mom’s lived by since Dad passed on.
The deer move like wood smoke through charcoal shadow;
I’m penciled in against trees, watching roadside, unsure why
a lover once told me he liked me more than raspberry jam
and that—while he loved raspberry jam—he didn’t love me.
The truth? I didn’t love him either and liked him less
at such clumsy carelessness. So I held my tongue
about his small cock and left with what grace I could muster.
Words are awkward sticky things that sway
from sugar to sour once loosened from tongue.
Do I forgive him because we were young?
Desire reversed doesn’t chase need away.
In June, among roadside rock, new blackberries will muster.
Wild strawberries too, budded brambles inviting tongue.
Mom will wash Ball jars before the briar’s best
get eaten by deer teaching next year’s young. She’ll mail me
preserves, knowing—there’s nothing I like more than blackberry jam.
But right now, evening drowns in grays and browns. Shadows
swallow me alongside apple, poplar and pine. I’m not sure why
I visit Mom’s house more rarely now that Dad is gone.
It feels bruised—an apple fallen and spoiled
beneath the tread of whitetail hooves. Tonight, I prod hillside.
I stay a little longer. I let ache of wanting awaken hunger.
Kelly McQuain’s writing has appeared in The Pinch, Bloom, Mead, Painted Bride Quarterly, Icarus, The Harrington Gay Men’s Fiction Quarterly and Kansas Quarterly/Arkansas Review, as well as such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Men on Men and Skin & Ink. He has twice held fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and was twice named a finalist for a Pew Fellowship. A native of West Virginia, he now works as a writing professor in Philadelphia. His book reviews and essays on city life appear in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Learn more at www.KellyMcQuain.wordpress.com.
Read more from Cleaver Magazine’s Issue #1.