No Approximate Burn Time
He pressed his heat into me
like I was a ball of wax on the lip
of a red envelope.
The melting was involuntary,
a reflex clicked into action
like a switchblade cutting
the long string of tension
that dangles between two bodies
in a seedy midnight alley.
The act of fucking
has always sounded to me
like something people who
hate each other do.
He licked my ear,
said “There is nothing I want more
than I want to fuck you right now,”
and the word in his mouth
rose from the ash of the obscene,
a delicious tongue of fire
curling up the wick of my spine.
Weeks later, alone in bed,
I can feel the darkness
he left under my skin
when he pulled away, cold
as the secular moon that drags and folds
the ocean into its own frozen depths.
He dressed without word,
eyes shielded from me
as though I carried the sun itself
between my breasts, in the place
where my heart pounded, volcanic,
hard enough to rush those hot,
vicious circles of blood to my cheeks
where they flamed for days,
like Rome each time it was left
wrecked, emptied of gold.
There Is No Standard Protocol
that has ever been issued for the act
of telling the people who love you
something they do not want to hear,
when rivers and oceans
have stopped being beautiful
and have become nothing
but places to drown,
when the smell of earth
after a heavy rain
is a graveyard at dusk,
a gallery of open mouths
waiting to be filled,
when the sound of rustling leaves
becomes the shuffling of feet
in a hospital waiting room,
the whisper of long-haired women
weeping in green hallways,
when love becomes despair,
heavy as a thousand lovers
with a single face
all balanced at once on your chest,
and your heart is a bluebird
too fat and tired to fly,
when you are brought to your knees
in sudden, desperate prayer
to a god you do not worship
by the sight of an abandoned
black sweatshirt hung
like a holy relic over the back of a chair,
its limp arms tangled together,
dangling before you
like a hangman's noose.
Trial By Fire
My biggest mistake was telling you
I'd never learned to swim.
Not really. Only to tread water,
my arms forever lacking the strength
necessary to carry me to shore.
At the water's edge, we cast stones
across the misty surface of the lake.
You take my hand, show me how
to flick my wrist in just the right way.
It's about control, you say.
You grin like Alice's Cheshire Cat,
teeth a-glimmer, as the sun sets
and darkness is ladled over us
like a thick, cold stew.
The last time we fought,
you called me a witch, threatened
to take me out in your boat
to the lake's black center, throw me in.
Shadows flicker beneath the water,
and I imagine the writhing hair
of accused women, their denials
of any wrongdoing proven only
by the eternal, stone-heavy silence
of the drowned.
I have been unfaithful, that my eyes
and the eyes of your friend linger
too long across the kitchen table
over glasses full of wine at dinner,
or in the rear view mirror of his car
while he drives and I recline in the back seat,
my thigh pressed to yours, my hand on your knee
and Jim Morrison begs “Light my fire”
across the decades in a voice
that sweeps me into the depths of longing
as swiftly as when you press me hard
against the stake of a gnarled tree trunk,
hands fumbling at buttons,
palming my breast, teeth grazing my nipple,
your sighs a song of possession,
my body a conquered fortress
burning under the red flap
of your war banner, and I wonder
what kind of woman
would ask for this?
Because I am ashamed
even now to confess
that you build a rage of bonfires
under my skin, that
the violence in you excites me
until I am screaming
like a bedeviled creature,
guilty as sin,
going up in flames.
Amber Decker is a thirty-something poet from West Virginia. Her work has been included in the groundbreaking literary e-zine, Exquisite Corpse, as well as other hip venues for alternative writing: Zygote In My Coffee, Arsenic Lobster, Phantom Kangaroo, Bone Orchard, Specter Magazine, Red Fez, and Black Heart Magazine, to name just a few. She is a lover of hooded sweatshirts, comic books, werewolf movies, good wine, tattoos, and Miles Davis. Her latest collection of poems, The Girl Who Left You, is available from California's notorious Six Ft. Swells Press.