by Paige Quiñones
I once tried to read the palm of a man I did not know. His
fingers were long and could not stay face up; he reached
for my breast instead. I felt no warmth in his hand or in
my chest. All we left was an indentation on the couch, its
loose cover twisting like a woman’s white veil.
I was taught to never look a man in the mouth; rather, I
have learned to demand his family secrets. I am old enough
to know what these mean, that I can use them to build a
shrine. His father’s mistress had long black curls. No words
exist for his mother’s lovers. 
Black underwear makes a constellation around my ankles.
Capricornus, perhaps. Backlit by the television, he tells me
I resemble a woman. He resembles something else. I run
my tongue over the flattest parts of his teeth.
I can feel where he’s begun to grow antlers. 
We watch one another as if the moon does not exist, as if
there is body of water between us. I see a man at the
bottom of this lake. He sees a doe instead. 
He preferred bruised fruit to anything.
I want to catch my ankle in the spokes of his bicycle. My
mother has a scar there too; its silver shines like a polished
bone. She told me how it felt to fall forward, her talus
flashing in the sun. I find this romantic. I would reach for
his hand and kneel and lick the blood from my own leg.
We played by laying coins on each other’s eyes. I liked him
best that way, smelling of stale metal, eyelids ringed in gray.
We played by hunting in the dark. He taught me to identify
prints, to gut, to dress. He only smiled with his hands deep
inside a warm red cut.
In the dream, he is a feral child who does not speak. When
I wake, he is a shadow moving across the door.
When I wake, I have no mouth to open.

This poem first appeared in Muzzle Magazine

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