Back to Issue Eighteen.

as the rockies slaughter the dodgers, i spot my married lover’s doppleganger

BY SARA HENNING

I’m palming the air for the four-seam
fastball, the miscarried crack of the pitch
hurtling toward the stands at the bottom

of the first inning, and its not June’s
unseasonable clutch that’s unfocused me,

not heat suturing my t-shirt
to the vale between my breasts
that’s caused the ball to ricochet past

my head. It’s the man whose eyes are
an eroded coastline, his irises radiating rip currents,

spindrifts, the man who grasps the tan
thigh of the brunette leaning into him,
though she’s easily half his age. I’m watching

her teeth slide through the bratwurst
he’s bought her, its mustard lacquer radiant

in the light. I’m watching her tongue
the thick moons of meat, swallow each
like a hallowed stone. Are we drawn to love

by the mysterious transparency of the human
body? Rather, does the body lapse into metaphor,

divulge itself in tangible terms? In my metal-
backed seat at Coors Field, I’m trying not to think
of the fan that died laying hands on a foul, how fear

forced his six-year-old child to watch.
I’m trying not to think of the Texas Rangers out-fielder

tossing the souvenir foul to the stands
that forgone summer, or the fan, an off-duty
firefighter, trying to catch the ball for his son.

But isn’t this the nature of desire?
The ball’s force tethering his hold and slip,

the boy standing afterwards in the country
of lost words, hand seizing the rail that
couldn’t stop his father’s fall. Tell me, isn’t this

desire—how the child stood, replaying
his father’s twenty-foot dive into the scoreboard,

how long he traced the dead body
with his eyes? As the sliders, strikeouts,
and benders unveil their soliloquys before us,

I’m back to the brunette, how she presses
her Blue Moon to her jugular notch, her flushed

skin winding inward like the lobes
of a rose petal before she drinks. I know this
barehanded way of literalizing oneself, as if to say

my body is the suicide squeeze at the bottom
of the last inning, as if to say desire modifies us.

I watch her skirt ride up as they sidle out
of their seats, her thighs marked by the scorching
metal. I watch her body as the scoreboard pulses

images into the sun’s dusky arousal and he
follows, the glare eclipsed by the mountains.

I’m watching her calves, jealous of how
the muscles rise and fall as she climbs the bleacher
steps like a throat, undulant, swallows a necessary water.

 

for my uncle, who has learned to fly

BY SARA HENNING

 

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October

James Wright, “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio

On nights hawk moths cyclone
and plunge into my car’s low beams,
I’m convinced they are bodies in love—
forewings ricochet against parabolic

reflector in cadence, thoraxes pelt the cool
whelm of glass. Because spring thaw
suffers them into the crosswind’s whirl
and dirge, the din of the suicidally beautiful

becomes a ruthless bell. When I learn
that celestial routing contrives their spiral
flight paths, not longing, that my light’s
brutal ploy is only deception, I think

of my uncle, knees down in wild violets,
the day my mother broke his arm.
I imagine the clash over a blue ukulele,
his ulna hewn by its cheap,

laminate wood, the way the nylon strings
feathered his skin. I want to touch his cast’s
exhausted foxhole as he secrets his pain inside of it,
to curl into its raw cotton.

I want to close my eyes over nights
their father forced them into the cellar,
urged him onto his sister with joint locks
and vital point strikes to teach

her a lesson, his body thrust forward
by their father’s slurs. Years later, grinding
his thighs into boot-marked bleachers at the rodeo,
my uncle watches cowboys

launch toward steer bolting from spring
-loaded chutes, watches for hands full of horns,
man given over to adrenaline and dust. He’ll gaze as man
seizes beast like a child

held between another child’s palms,
the clutch a lapsed intimacy. Before my uncle
leaves for boot camp, he’ll grip his sister’s wrist
until she vines her fingers around

his plush thenar eminence, his thumb
like blunt cut sage. It is the last time his hands
will plot her vein’s smooth tributaries, trail
the map of scars to her pulse.

Next winter, a bullet will sing its way
into his skin. But for now, like honey
-suckle helixing hardest at the root
it betrays, she won’t let go.

Sara Henning is the author of A Sweeter Water (Lavender Ink 2013), as well as two chapbooks, Garden Effigies (Dancing Girl Press 2015) and To Speak of Dahlias (Finishing Line Press 2012). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as MeridianThe Cincinnati ReviewQuarterly WestGreen Mountains ReviewCrab Orchard Review, and Rhino. Winner of the 2015 Crazyhorse Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize, she is currently a doctoral student in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as an associate editor of Sundress Publications.

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