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Crush # 421

Lea Graham

                                For J.E.

It was one of those years: fallow, dry, insipid, an exsiccative fall breeding winter,
torrefying, glistening, sluggish. Afternoons withered talk-less, nothing to story,

words crackling off their stalks, blown to corners; phrases like dust motes, ephemeral,
memories of a feverish child. I was parched, exhausted without tale or romance,

idyll, pastoral. Even the song drained, the chant emptied. Then one morning—
like a 1950s train intruding upon the film’s lovers or Zeus costumed as river mist—

a message appeared in my inbox. It said: armpit & luminescent & hoary.
That was all it took. I woke greening like Stanley Park, a gleaming garnet in a Prague

shop case, flooding like a Kroetsch novel. Words kept coming: pudenda, tuber,
torus, cavetto
, blossoming again—from pay-phones in Innsbruck to cantinas

in Seattle, arcing Mombasa’s rooftops; rocking & rolling, a dhow on the Indian Ocean;
bursting the cracks of Ashland Ave. (where I’d once been taken for a Near West-Side

hooker disguised as school girl): gobsmacked, corm, hough & helix & where & here
& you, you, you—
until stories ripped, fecund, ripe, splitting from their juices.

Then one spring suddenly, as if turned to feldspar, they cooled, weathered, broke down.
Flaccid & faded words were left: oh god & desperately & make a clean breast of, wilting

dumb, & righteous, a sultry summer sprawling before me, slouched in internet cafes
listening to rain, my inbox empty. Alone, I hiked to waterfalls where signs read Prohibir

Amorosas, longing to catch the ear of some dusty traveler like me.
But all I found were college kids from Poughkeepsie at the pool. I bought the beer.

They rendered their chansons de geste: coitus in greenhouses & bathroom stalls;
cunnilingus in their mom’s suv’s, revealing the words fertilizing each narrative: Pollution

is a dirty means to a radiant sunset like your smile & You must be tired—you’ve been
running through my mind all night & Wanna fuck?
Words engorged, rushing,

commingled with laughter & hunch, our crossed legs on a bus back to the city to keep
from pissing ourselves as we passed through cloud forests; rivering, their stories

germinated, coalesced—what grows shared— bromeliads, bougainvillaea,
bleeding hearts, my words—bract & spine, caudex &corolla, stamen, calyx, carpel

soughed, swelling— a great ruckle. Three months later, I’m sitting at a bar
next to a man with hair the color of speech & honey & semen, his appetite

straight-up Dionysian. He said, You’re hot. I blushed. Over mussels
& muscadet he told me his story—it began: First the flash, then the thunder

Lea Graham

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