By the River, a Pause

by Joanna Pearson

In the end it’s all about the bones
beneath the warmth and flesh and kissing,
the hot blood that’s rivering
down to those moist, fertile regions,
and the first tastes of white breath
misting from another’s mouth.
July’s outdoor temptation is
lazy late afternoons, sloshing aimlessly,
scrambling banks so the knees are scratched,
slurping bare feet through muck,
stick and unstuck, the minnows shimmering with sun.
Although most have never seen one,
we’ve heard the stories whispered
and would assent they’re there:
covered in the matted hair of pinestraw
and latticework of rotting leaves,
discarded remnants of old affairs, the misbegotten,
infant parietals thin as snail shells
off one of those hazy unpaved roads.

It might seem unlikely,
and yet he saw her face,
the two of them reclining
in the sun soaked creekside brush,
saw when it blanched at what
was cool and smooth and fragile to touch
just there at her elbow, the unhallowed.
In loco parentis, memento mori,
moral intervention, or paranoia—
whatever you want to call it
they sure cocked their lover’s skulls
in shock and stopped it
at such ossified hard logic.

Joanna Pearson’s writing has appeared in Best New Poets, Mississippi Review, JAMA, The Raleigh News & Observer, The 2River View, The Journal of Medical Humanities, Yemassee, and others. She now lives in Baltimore, MD.