by Steven Bankert

I wanted to ask 
If you kept all of your kings in the back row,
Or if you knew someone who deliberately cheated in a game of Battleship,
Or if you ever felt sad and fucked up for no reason at all.
Anything to start a conversation.
Anything that would make me look at your face.
You could’ve carved anything you wanted:
Grids, graphs, plaid, maps, wiring, chainmail, flowers, 
hell—99 balloons!
Instead, you chose tick marks, using tallies to score
A game you were undoubtedly losing.
I counted 26 cuts on your ochre forearm,
Some devil’s alphabet, maybe Morse code.
Dot Dash Dash Dash.
Either way I couldn’t read it.
For 75 minutes I sat like an Eliot protagonist, wondering
Do I Dare? and Do I Dare?
Dare to ask about the constellations on your skin—
Too afraid to connect the dots myself.