Because the cathedral leaked yellow light
onto cobblestones like a slit carton of milk.
Because boxes of red wine emptied
down the throat’s swiveling street.
Because the music of my footsteps
like notes of ash.
Because he curved like a question mark
puncturing a flap of heaven.
Because litros tucked in brown paper bags,
two packs of Chesterfields a day,
at the breakfast table,
on the lip of a balcony.
Because I woke in a shrine
of my own stickiness.
Because his lips were aperitif.
Because my father kissed his forehead
outside the mosque,
the taste of rum and rose petals.
Because oranges bulging in coat pockets.
Because the condom held against the light,
swirling cities of children we would never conceive.
Because it broke,
the cartography of longing pulsed onto soft thigh.
Because the long walk home chaperoned by stray dogs,
the drunk’s grief of the Guadalquivir,
blue cough and jasmine rotting in my hair.
Because I passed out in the bar bathroom
and mistook the toilet for my mother’s legs.
Because the shard of glass in the singer’s throat.
Because he cried when he was happy.
Because the thief looked me in the eyes and didn’t take the purse.
Because the petroglyphs of our hands wounded the white walls,
how we made the world small,
siphoning god’s breath
to sweeten the blood-flavored noon.
Copyright © 2019 by Kendra DeColo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
“This poem is a goodbye letter to a city I loved, written years after leaving it. It is a love poem, a blood on the sheets, handprints asterisking the wall kind of poem. (I love how anaphora gives space to write desire without feeling monitored by a patriarchal gaze.) It is also, at its core, an ode to emergency contraception and the freedom a woman might have to be self-possessed—in love, in pleasure, or otherwise.”