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AFTER YOU I Susan Wood l Somewhere I wake in the dark. The air doesn't move, waiting for rain. Heat sits on my chest, pins me down by the wrists, and I think of endless, unforgiving summers, the way we held anger between us, like hands, like the death of hands. Our bodies coming together like fists, the bodies of strangers colliding at intersections, the bruised and bitter streets. 2 There's another street, a window glowing red at dusk, where you wait for night to absorb the last shreds of light, for blame to strike against the pane like a jagged, broken moon. I imagine you sitting alone, bourbon and ice in your glass, while any song with the word blue in it plays on the radio. Memory has its consolations, the translation of an imagined event into the blue the sky is some evening after rain, washed with pink and gold like summer dresses. Guilt plants its whiskey kiss on your lips. 3 Your father sits on the bed. You can never do enough, he says, touching your face. In your hands loneliness shatters like a mirror, and you want to walk through mirrors, through walls, breaking everything 14 • T h e M is s o u ri R eview open. No one will ever love you enough. Everyone has secrets. You listened in on dreams, took them as your own, your kisses breaking into my mouth, stealing my breath. 4 Sometimes another man's lips move like birds over my body, promising everything. Or there's the promise of despair, as when a woman stands in an empty field one afternoon in winter and her glance scatters over the field like birds startled by something both strange and commonplace: the casual surprise of what we choose to remember, a day shaped to any change of weather, rain, our lives in danger. 5 I handle being alone carefully, with attention, as one might handle an unfamiliar knife, gently running a finger along the blade, measuring its strength, its weight in the palm. The cutting edge is grief. I have my secrets back, and breath to stir the air with, somewhere in the dark. It's a story where forgiveness hardly matters, a story of knives and rain: how memory cuts into us, opening the soft place at the heart of things. Susan Wood T h e M is s o u ri R eview • 15 ...


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pp. 14-15
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