by Isabelle Anderson
on the cusp of june, you wonder, again, if you could ever love
a man. the neighborhood’s windows reopen and your cough syrup silences fill with the twofold noise of the seventeen year cicadas: their own
tissue paper speech and your family’s speculation on disgust.
your aunt asked, isn’t it a mating call? with the same intonation as do you
have a boyfriend? she met your hesitation with half-concession, or girlfriend,
you never know these days.
in mere lcd seconds, fingerpads marrying screen, you’re in some guy’s red sedan
& he thinks, because you write poems, that you do not know what a prime number is, lecturing unsolicited on cicadas’ only evolutionary advantage:
but you know this game, this evasion of predators, your fickle feelings
an act of survival, rendering you unable to know yourself whether you will let
him touch you, whether you will even be afforded the choice,
as you marinate in a carful of want, the assuredness of his desire, enviable
your aunt’s boyfriend had called her squeamish for her dislike of the geysering
insects streaming from holes in your grandmother’s yard.
he had asked if they disgusted you too so, you wielded a tiny vacant body
to assure him the bug was not the root of your repulsion.
the boy takes you to a set of train tracks, tells you, the rails will rattle if a train is coming, pulling you from your place, two and a half feet north of risk,
and onto the wooden vertebrae despite your steady stream of
no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no
don’t forget how your aunt’s boyfriend said of the shell, that’s not enough,
explained how he weaned his daughters of entomological fear, plucked one
as it emerged from the ground, living, and sat it in your palm,
deciding for you what your body would do.
you think you hear a whistle, but it is just the boy’s breath, hungry and intrusive, as he gracelessly pitches up some gravel; the clang against the track you mistake for the end, deciding you cannot die before you love a woman.
you are able only to remember that new-old being you led from ground to bark, where you watched how it, screaming out for love, pulled off
the skin it wore for nearly two decades, all touch, yours included, left
on the hollowed suggestion of what it once was.