Green bruises

by Claire Stringer

          for David

I

I cleaned out our magic couch
and found your tender traces
of kisses goodbye and pages scalloped
from loud reading finger rubs
       crumbled beneath the cushions.

Your eyelashes fossilized 
into soft bone and now skin the sand
like rumpled linen
mapping your way home 

while baby crab carcasses rot
in little mountains
under your feet raw and
pink with cold shadows.

We’ll line our shelves with those
pebbles between your toes, the small stones
we collected on our walks
from the waves inked despondent back
into our green pressed-velvet shell.

II

I’m keeping your ghost
peppers in the bowl by my bed
to stay warm this winter.

Why don’t you come by
more often? I’ll make you cinnamon tea
and feed you almonds and ice cream, and we’ll dance
in long beaded gowns and I’ll kiss you

on the neck and tell you
I love you, little brother.
We can recite our poems
in parking lot kiosks and make eyes
at passing cyclists while we hold
hands and eat dried figs.

III

Well then, let us go wherever it
is we’re supposed to be,
though you’ve left me
sticky with meat sweats
in this crinkly old candy wrapper
       or was it a lozenge?
Last night I tried to wash the cobwebs out of my hair
with a bucket of spiders,
but the results were hard to conceptualize.

IV

Was it all a performance? What about tiny daily acts
of self-negation? Right,
what of them. They are petty pains: the jagged mussel
shells I press against my bloody tongue, the lemon
flesh inside my cheeks, the blank dominoes
I drop into my morning milk.

Did you leave your lightest prints
on some amorphous goose pillow?
I only know the gold glitter paint caked
in our bathroom sink textured with your black sheep
hair from the night you dressed as Tilda Swinton.

I missed you then, every time
I spat my toothpaste or plucked my whiskers:
       here is a collaborative project
we have made in our den of sheets and shells.