Begin in September. The September before
I knew you. Wake up next to the smoky hair
of a woman from whom you want
absolution before she, whoever she is, wakes.

Feel the way summer air dies
like moths in the corners of her house,
the fluttering, gray quell of your heart.

Slip out so quietly she can’t contest
the echo of unlatching or your boots
across varnished floors. Open her front door
into February, the spring before your graduation.

Walk until you find the high red window
of the first girl to break your heart.
Stand beneath it. Think of her dark hair.
Think of the night she came down to you,
made you promise in the dark-wet foxtails
at the end of the street, the ocean air cooling
her mouth as it opened over you,
how the night was a knot she undid
with her slender fingers, then withdrew.

Now, find wish-seeds floating
through the Augusts of your childhood,
tangled in uncombed hair and the sugar-taste
of fried dough. Remember the exhaustion of fireworks,
rain warming on the hoods of cars, thistles hiding
in the long slender bodies of sweet grass,
sandy blankets rubbed with oil,
airplanes writing names in the sky.

And don’t come back to me, Love,
with your kiss full of regret. Return to the home
you built of twine and fallen branches,
to the girls playing hopscotch
near the neighbor’s brambles.

Recall the feel of sap, the rules of hide-and-seek,
the bitter milk of dandelion dared to the tongue.

From Desire Museum (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2023) by Danielle Cadena Deulen. Copyright © 2023 Danielle Cadena Deulen. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC, on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd.