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Photograph by Matthew Finley,

Issue 108, Spring 2020

The Wild


Crashing against the mountain, the sun
breaks into a million rubies across the frosted panes
of leaves, and every roof of every house is painted
in a thin wainscoting of frost so the shingles brown 
what is underneath. The earth is trying to cure grief 
by way of cold and light. I decide it’s better to come than 
cry. In bedsheets, we are gravel thrown 
from the wheels of a pickup; we are making a mess 
of our bodies, so our lives will be less so. 
In the end, it is snow across your stomach, 
raw snow inside you, and I wonder how quickly
the roofs will shed their white morning, 
how a window without the sun breaking across it
is just another window, and I think here is love, 
when a thing holds within all it can ever be and then 
all its nothingness, right after, and the man you were 
just inside isn’t reaching for his keys, he’s spinning 
your grandmother’s golden wedding band, 
the heirloom you gave him two thousand miles 
away in a sudden blizzard, when neither of you had 
ever seen snow.


Now we’ve seen the world or dreamed it
together     we’ve named every beast
every bird is familiar     every hole is marked
with the memory of a once-twisted ankle
so we walk our world deliberate     there 
is nothing dangerous anymore     if danger 
is how we define the beginnings of love     when we 
abandon the blueprint of our own possibility     
and the pathways into another’s body become 
the only map that matters     we’ve memorized
the edges and corners     can follow the other
in the safe of our dark     enough 
years have passed that we’ve been dreaming 
of danger again     those individual desires
we buried but never forgot where
you stand on a mountain today
I sit at my desk     we are
thinking of each other     this 
is the middle part of love.


My Papa spent his whole life watching. 
He built houses, the blueprint 
in his mind, wired strip malls and paper mills 
with electric. Drove his wife into Appalachia
to see her glow with gossip
at her sister’s side. Now it’s all shadows,
the million muted colors dark makes 
as his eyes flame out. He gets led through 
the home he built by a string, 
and in the grocery, he follows the bleached 
bright shoes of Grandma shuffling 
after cereal and a loaf of honey wheat. 
Sometimes you can hear him calling 
out after her, when she’s moved too fast 
down the aisle, and I swear, if I close my eyes 
I can hear me in his voice.

108 PS poems Finley ccPhotograph by Matthew Finley,


See? There is still danger
though we dare not speak it     we survive 
the strange month when everyone dies 
the moonflowers bloom one final time     
in the approach to a change of season     after you 
bury your mother’s dog by hand
your mouth is a tomb I stand outside
some goodbyes we see coming like a storm
on the radar and we prepare     
some surprise us with a tear in the roof 
and rivers falling all over the living
room     we make our plans
our instructions clear     one of us will
drive the car     the other will be
gone     a song will play on the radio
we sang together     there is still danger yes
but we dare not speak it now


Why does it feel safer to mourn an animal? 
We don’t speak our own danger, 
but I write it and worry I’ll be like the poet
who wrote his twin’s life ending until it did.
That I’ll be left navigating 
a life alone with everything
reminding me of you—the books
stamped with our names, 
how we mapped our years 
in letters scrawled on the insides 
of covers so we could trace back 
our steps to the love 
we found once in the bed in the burgundy
and blue room in the sunrise 
when what we knew most was my brokenness, 
how every other pair of arms felt like emptiness; 
or maybe, even simpler: the beard shavings, 
brown and those you say you earned,
the grays that catch so much light, catch 
the eye like a star shooting, scattered
at the sink which will crumble me
at the mirror every morning and every night 
where I will hate to brush my teeth 
like I’ve always hated to brush my teeth, but in that room 
I’ll hear you telling me, Take care of yourself


Those early Sundays having the luxury 
of just us     having come into one another’s
orbit     sweeping everything else away 
work suffered     plants went unwatered
sleep deprived     in a sexual trance    
leaner wallets     we spent like no tomorrow
there was no tomorrow     our heaven was this
older now     having grown this universe 
you in bed reading in the other room
I watch the lights on the bluffs replaced
by the waking sun     in the house we picked 
up where others left off     the for-sale sign 
swinging in the front yard then gone
these cabinets that open doors to 
the nonlinear notion of time     some days 
it’s still the day we first touch     the smell of coffee 
on your shirt     some mornings
we don’t say much at all     I unpack 
the boxes     put the book on the shelf 
the gift in which you wrote to me 
years from now can you still feel the excitement? 
and in an autumn then unimaginable 
I answer you yes.



Seth Pennington and Bryan Borland

Seth Pennington is editor-in-chief at Sibling Rivalry Press and author of Tertulia. He is editor of Stonewall 50: 21 Poets Connected by Arkansas on Queer Life after the Stonewall Riots and co-editor of Assaracus and Joy Exhaustible.
Bryan Borland is the founding publisher of Sibling Rivalry Press and author most recently of DIG, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry.