Back to Issue Sixteen.




There was a time we knew with certainty
what we would go and do.  We called it
landing, we saw it promised, and dipped

our noses toward the bay, readied
our wheels above the waves’ pacific
commas, bright-cresting delays—

and we trusted the ground
to reveal itself for our touching down
at the last second, never questioning

our own deaths. How tenuous they’d be.
This peninsula-city has no graves left,
buries dead in unknown places. Unfazed,

we embraced gravity, made our way
down the coast’s arm to where you lay,
and took twenty questions to ascertain

your latitudes of ache. Head shaking, tube
raking along your parched throat—we can’t
screen agonies closest to us—

where yeast has colonized the tongue
in a crust preventing speech. No bottle
brush tree can brush it off, nor we,

the need to have direction, be some
remedy—the dog has a blazon of burrs
on her chest, and we go home to pull

them off, find the fruit-of-the-month
sunk to counters, its scales a maze of rot.
We hold the knife as we hold

our lives: to the basket of pineapples,
not having cut one before. We twist
a crown, kitchen drowns in its manna

smell and slicing the scales we go for the core,
mangle it with our stubborn torque,
mostly throw them away. It’s knives

we use for shredding and to do the spreading,
too. We stroke your hand all afternoon—
ambrosia that we’re making; these days

we stomach canned fruit.

Cate Lycurgus’s poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming from American Poetry ReviewThird CoastGulf Coast Online, and elsewhere. A 2014 Ruth Lilly Fellowship Finalist, she has also received scholarships from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences. Cate currently lives south of San Francisco, California, where she edits interviews for 32 Poems and teaches professional writing to aspiring accountants.

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