BY HEATH WOOTEN
after Richard Siken’s “Little Beast” I The water sings the moss. The moss sings the water. He pulls me to him through blistered branches and echoes the refrain. I watch the weave of his hands in the brown and I echo the refrain. Midnight crickets sing their death as he trembles the water to its heart. I listen. He holds my shoulder, all elbows between. I clump moss into the water and he laughs. The water is all moss and stars. Midnight waters its way down the branches and into my hair. He pushes it away, and I laugh and it echoes and I listen for his heart. II Once he told me to follow him into the pond. The water, comfortable to sit against my shoulder, drank of me no more than I drank of it. III I fall into the green. I trust leaves to mark the surface. I am all green fish scale and grasping hand. I cling to his naked wrist twisted green and gold. The fish— very at home—nibble at the scratchy surface. His feet muddy as he scratches for a breath. I pull him up, but he lusts for green and breathes it, too. IV And I let him, stupid me is no match for gash of gills— until he decides I am. I am painted with mud and pollen. I am balancing a spider between my fingers. He is looking at me below the pollenated water. I am warm. He spider-webs through the water in search of some undisturbed mud. His head below water, his feet incise the pollen and make it sigh. I look at him and I am warm. He looks at me and paints me gills. When he comes up for air, pollen blooms into mud in his hair. His skin blooms red in the sun, and I realize I am naked without the water-fog and he smiles and knows and says, You are never naked if you don’t stop moving—and I would always believe him. He slicks me through the mud into more mud. It is summer and I am warm when he holds me against the pond-bed, when he pours his air into me. V He teaches me the best places to catch the snakes by surprise, the best places to kiss the moon—the best places to kiss. He teaches me how to ripple with the water and break it, too. How to slither away from the purling snakes. This is where they come to cool down, he points. And this is where they warm up. He is cool stone when I fall into him. His feet kiss the mud and it stays embossed when he surprises the snakes—and me—with broken water. VI And when autumn overfills the trees, he snakes his body against mine as daylight shatters into black. He is close as the water, close as autumn breeze—and I forget I am not autumn, but that I am younger and nearer to the pond than ever under his leaf-light touch. I leave my clothes forgotten on the trees when he pulls me under the coolest black. He is close and closer—I tremble with the leaves. VII I shiver. Though the pond has given its body over to the chill, it still shivers with his slightest touch— he is still fluid, he is still liquid. This muscle memory is forever. The only difference— now we rest together between sheets of ice and count the stars and wonder why they shiver. Time is always short once blood tastes the chill, blood too content as liquid. Let’s go, he says, the stars aren’t forever. I shiver, and he wishbones the chill, the bigger half content in his closed palm. Still I wait like ice and remember the green, the mud, his naked body and his twisted wrist; and wonder if a closed palm is forever.