by Nadra Mabrouk
You wanted to use a caterpillar as fish bait.
The soft fuzz of its pinky-long body
squirmed as though in slow motion
and you, not able to cut into its mouth, shivering,
threw it back in the grass.
And I thought we could take this bike anywhere –
Instead, we stop,
lay it on the ground near my chalky ankles.
a half naked woman’s shoulders near us, tanner than us — she is a bear:
waiting for the small gloves of fish
to tug, then grabbing them off the hook with large fingers
and swollen palms
as though her growth depended on them.
And what does our growth depend upon?
Exoskeleton? Thin needles inside fish?
The sturdiness of understanding the variations of the skeletal system?
I turn to prickling hairs on your thin-skinned elbow
and rub my cheek against your ribs.
You place your fingers on the sinking earth of my face
as though tracing hunger on the cheekbone
as the woman limps away.
She leaves with a basket of fresh bodies.
Something to slice open, squeeze lemon on,
cradle in your mouth and feel whole.
In a thought made of silk,
I am cutting softened peaches into puddles of vanilla,
a dessert, after salting the center of a cut salmon:
pink tongues on a refrigerated platter.
After we eat – a marinated silence
and hands, smelling of the river,
something swift to salvage us.
You fill your hands with the grainy metal of the handlebars
and walk ahead of me,
footsteps slow and dry in the heat.