Alison Stine/ Number 95
In our dreams we return to the shed,
the outer wall studded with antique
tools like punctuation: a scythe, an ice
pick, a plane. Weapons of the dead.
The door stammered: I need to bruise you.
The windmills were still in the tornado field.
In my dreams I am running my hand
over peonies. In your dreams
you are drawing with red lipstick
on my skin. But here is the shed, still
is the shed, boards blue as water, blue
as the dreams of water, splintered,
with a bitten bottom. The dirt floor keeps
the knees’ secret. Before I left I found
a list of things. Some I understood. Some
I did not. Some were unreadable. Gag
a lot. We did not get through all of them.
Now, in the swan-legged stillness of after,
I rearrange pictures. I remember
the shed. You carried me naked
to the bed and wrapped me in brown fur,
whispering, You are safe. You are safe.
Remember I am always with you
and I always want what is happening
to happen to you. We talked, as I never
have with anyone, about leaving
these skins. Floating above our bodies
as if they were striders on the river.
Once I admitted to the husband
who would leave, I think I have
these dreams about people . . . But it was
me. Always it was me. In the shed
on my knees. In the shed, summer
naked. In the shed,
making a memory of waiting.
In the shed, mosquito obedience.
Sweat smoking down the small
of a flat back obedience.
When the black snake is released
from the corn crib it will be fat
as King Cake obedience. Listening
for the love of your bones. Listening
for the return. What I thought about
was a green field. What I thought about
was a deer tangled in the wire fence
at the edge of the field, tangled
and dead—it was clear from the highway—
rag doll head, limbs loose as flags.
And the army of men I saw in the soy,
wading through leaves, Amish
men in the dark clothes of creeks.
Men with knives and gloves and pliers,
come to the deer. Come to do
the right thing. You would return to the door,
throw light over my body. Eventually
you would return, as you said you would,
the hinge talking over the hasp
of your belt. You promised. Really nothing
is real but a promise. Everything
is only before or after. There was a deer.
It was living. Now it is a chore.
There was a child. Now she is a woman.
Take me to the shed. I want to bruise you
and bruise you and keep you safe.
We decided our word would be red.
Alison Stine’s debut novel for adults, The Grower, will appear from Mira in fall 2020. Her other books include Ohio Violence (University of North Texas Press) and The Protectors (Little A). She lives in rural Appalachia.Image by Tara Evans