‘Germination’, A.Z. Louise

Illustration © 2019 Martin Hanford

 [ Her dessicated hand, © 2019 Martin Hanford ] Her hands are dark as night leaching into bone
A curse of millimeters and long hours
Of skittering ants and slippery thought
Of a cobweb pulse against the soft meat of my arm
When she leans into the valley of my neck
And breathes salt-marsh against my skin
As she whispers secrets I already know

They are witches and traitors but I am worse
A skinning wound of a soul
And I dream of you every night

Every word is a wriggling worm
A hungry larva eating away at cedar-closet resolve
Until I find the skeleton key cold and rough in my hand
Living iron aching to send the tumblers rolling home
Too afraid to feel it weighing down my pocket
I let it rest upon the splintering floor for days
Neither of us able to touch it without shattering

You are warm to these cold hands
And when I wake there is frost on the window
And sloughed-off skin on my sheets

I shake the bedclothes out the window
Clutching the corners tight in fear of wind carrying the linen away
There is never the slightest breeze
Never rain or even a hint of weather
And she complains that she misses the sound of birdsong
Her voice scraping somewhere at the base of my skull
Like a memory I lost when I locked the tower door

The pain has begun to fade these last weeks
My mind is free from all that I have done
And I need the sky more than I need air and water

Her body is an ice statue with a fevered heart
Driving me out of bed and into the shards of moonlight
The key dragging me down and down
To where soft earth is indistinguishable from powdery ash
The sky colorless and its horizon interrupted by a ringwall
Dull stone sealed shut against a threat
That has long since slithered from my memory

They want us to decay with them
For it was I who brought this rot upon them
But it was you who brought the greening after

Her dessicated hand is cool and dry in mine
Fabric dollskin with fraying stitches
Barely able to contain the sawdust when I squeeze tight
And dust flicks up behind our heels
Finding every gap in my clothing
In search of softness to grind down
None remains

I thought it was beautiful then
A monument of callus and sweat
To how much you loved me despite it all

Stone opens slits in my clothing
Escape routes for tiny fluttering leaves and drops of sweat
That are lost in the sea of leaf litter and deadfall
The vines that creep over everything
Snagging our dirty toes and snaring our ankles
Until exhaustion drags us into the undergrowth
To rest on the soft bed of rot

Do you smell the decay?
The blessing I gave them has lingered on
And yours has become a plague

Honeydew pressure rises in my chest
Coughs spattering my palm with conidia
And slow memory of pure sterility eases into me
Of order and sun and stillness
Of white sky and gray earth
And blessed green shuddering to life between the cracks
Of rot and wither and the touch of her hand

© 2019 A.Z. Louise

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