And Even Still the Rivers
Remember when the river ran just beyond our door, when rains replenished this ribbon unfurled blue and raspberries ripened close so we could smell them through our bedroom window. Remember when the robins flew in with their red breasts and you sucked the red of this body and ran the river of your tongue across this stomach wet, and wet, this body swelled and crested.
You smile at me, and I can almost hear your skin crack.
Remember when the rain rebirthed the earth in wriggling worms.
Remember when you said you’d like to eat raspberries off this body’s breasts, so we plucked buckets full, and you placed the cool cups of them over this body’s nipples, dug your tongue beneath the berries, sucked them off without the lightest graze of skin, bit down just-too-hard enough to make this tongue curl back and sigh, tongues two tributaries meeting, tongues exchanging sweetness when the berries and their seeds were done and your mouth tasted of summer.
You smile at me, and I take this word within the redness of this mouth, roll it around, suck its salt like pebbles on a hungry beach, hold it still.
On hot days, the salt crust cracking is a requiem.
You smile at me. The word I’m tonguing is enough.
The Nile, the Amazon, the Yangtze, and the Yellow. The Rio Grande and River Thames. The Tigris and Euphrates, this aching fertile crescent. The Tennessee and Colorado. To think we once flooded valleys to fight the course of blood. To think we ever needed so badly to spell Mississippi we taught our children silly songs. To think still we teach our children songs.
In a time like this, it feels wrong to see you smile.
In this time of lips like callouses, tongues of pumice, it feels wrong to see you smile. In this time of so little sweat, no beads for this tongue to suck, no slick of skin on skin, too tired. No good morning, here’s a glass of water, sparkling, full color spectrum on the sun-drenched bedroom wall refracted. No drink it down so I can drink you up, no drink it down so you can scream my name. No finger-knots in hair. No get down to the delta of this body, take it all the way to roiling sea. In this time, all we have is smiles.
The maps still have their arteries. I trace the blue inside your wrists with this parched tongue and you smile, say remember when it rained for forty days and forty nights and I say that’s a story, what used to be a nightmare but now sounds like a dream. We need a different dove, you say, and I can hear your voice crack, lips crack, all that runs now is blood from these cracked bodies meant for water—remember being bodies made of water—and you say, a dove with water in its mouth. I trace the blue after the blue has gone, beyond your elbow to the crater of your armpit, and remember the rainbow, hope it can mean something else, hope the rain might once again remember this parched bed of earth. You unstick your thighs from the leather sofa, sigh and smile sadly, too tired for anything more than this tongue-scrape traveling to your heart, your inland ocean, and here we are, an ark of two, this promise that if we break, we’ll break together. And the raspberry vines wait outside, and the riverbed lies empty just beyond the door.
This piece was originally published in Gigantic Sequins.
Kate Finegan is editor-in-chief at Longleaf Review and novel/novella editor for Split/Lip Press. She lives in Toronto. You can find her at katefinegan.ink and twitter.com/@kehfinegan.
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