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First Water

Shirley Stephenson

In the empty ballroom, a man
comes at his block of ice
with chainsaw, then knife.
Breast, nape. He carves her
fingertips with a scalpel, dreads
the one wrong cut as if this

was her beginning and end.
He cannot apologize for such
instinct. We have faith in what
we desire. At sunset, a single
electric light may lure a season
of hatchlings away from refuge.

A collarbone ebbs in the glow
of candelabra. Haven of sweet-
water and brine, the woman
has never been this body.
She too, is unable to apologize.
Water always returns to water.

Shirley Stephenson

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