To Whom do I Say I’m Sorry

by Faith Woodside
*originally published by New Mirage

I

it has not rained for ninety five years

six months

eleven

days

dust melts into a film that clings to your

eyelashes

irises

lips

tongue

you see only blurred shadows and speak only whispered words

words that crumble in front of you

there is little food left in the pantry

maybe a single can of peaches with the label curling off

but you are young and still bound by that primal ache

you wet your fingertips in the syrup of canned peaches and touch your raw body

the syrup pools in your hollows

dampens the salt of tender flesh until it too dries up

until you are muted and numb

until your skin cracks then flakes

red red earth

the canned peaches are dull yellow

the sick yellow in the whites of your eye

sliced then spliced together

if you could hold in the warmth of your palm

the weight of a whole peach

if you could see your fingers press the flesh

and leave soft rose colored marks

if you could taste the sticky juice as it dribbles down your chin

you might forget that you are not innocent

and that your hands are creased like the tin can

and that it has not rained for ninety five years

six months

eleven

days.

II

you smell sweet like juniper because you sweat a little while you dig

and your sweat mingles with the damp earth

while you dig your lips are constantly moving

because you suck on peppermints that you hide deep in your pockets

as if there is someone to steal them

as if someone would want your peppermints that are broken to pieces inside the plastic

you are too tall and too straight for someone who shoulders the earth

you should be staggering under the load

you should be stooped

but you don’t know that

how could you

when you are deep deep in the earth

and can hear only the scuff scuff of your shovel

as it scrapes away at the earth.

III

you open your mouth and push the stone down your throat

the stone grinds against your teeth

even though it is smooth, worn by sea and sand

you feel the stone part and stretch the muscles of your esophagus

you feel the stone settle in the bottom of your stomach

you feel the weight pressing against your pelvic bone

you lift another stone and notice several ants scurry across your big toe

their black bead bodies plump and ripe as if they might burst

you want to see if those beads will pop the way you imagine

so you press the ants with your big toe

you grind them into the earth and you discover that they don’t pop

they smush and now the skin of your big toe is smeared with flecks of black

you push another stone into your belly

then another

then as many as will fit

until every time you move a limb

every time you shift your body

there is a dull grind from deep within

and to move is painful and slow.

IV

you are old now

there are sores on your armpits

so you spend time rubbing talcum powder

into the mottled skin

you keep the talcum powder in a tin that has a burnished luster

because you rub your thumb along the rim over and over

you are purple and faded and dry

moths settle on the arm of your chair

and on the ledge of the window sill

if you are still enough they land on your fingers and toes

you might brush them away

and for a moment gossamer wings flutter above your scalp

until the moths land again

your papery lips are silent now

you do not feel the slight tug

in the quiet place of your mind

where things collect

like dead flowers.

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Filed under Issue 7, Poetry

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