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Kierstin Bridger


Perched on the cold concrete
outside my door, I question what I know.
I know this is called spalling, 

thin flakes of concrete chip
with only a nudge of my fingernail.
The aggregate exposed in circles and gashes, 

like road rash, poured from a time
of hurricane recovery when desperate men
diluted the mix, cut concrete bags with cheap powder. 

I know the light is weak, 
there is a certain autumn chill.
Green has turned to bronze.

I know we've been apart longer 
than we were together.
Photos of us look storm washed,

the pixels are large. It's unclear
if your gaze falls on me 
or over my shoulder at the wreck that's coming.

I know I saw salt tracks on your scar,
the one below your eye, 
your prize from a knife fight.

Why do I remember you either laughing
or lying in a hospital bed? 
The middle parts crumble.

I still see the fan cooling your fevered body,
drugs to induce a coma — inflamed  
by drugs we never did together.

Your mother wild-haired,
telling me the whole story
while she splashed ICU coffee

on linoleum tiles,
how you drove mad 
into the star-scorched night —

Oh dark lashes, oh dark man
I knew as a boy —
we wrestled goose-fleshed

in the new moon and at harvest
in the full, and the blue,
like we were drowning, 

but those kisses are gone,
they taste of swept rock and lime dust,
rain-pressed against patio-slab veneer. 

We saved each other
until we couldn't.
Mad Dog liquor, Ziploc pot,

the stew of sweat and spit,
lust, like a levee, when you broke open
that smile. God we were gorgeous

and smooth, seeping and spilling,
cracking through anything
that would hold us.

Long Distance 

When we were sharing secrets
you whispered, 
the way a woman rubs a pearl against her teeth.
You whispered,
the way frost looks like fur,
the way the road laps up the miles.

I told you about musk on pulse points,
damp cotton on warm nights,
the way steam rises from hot springs,
how bodies are drawn to these river pools. 
I want to show you the ridges to climb.
Shall I whisper the secret of a swollen river?
You must starve her first with ice. 

Kierstin Bridger is a Colorado writer and winner of The Mark Fischer Poetry Prize. She is editor in "sheaf" of Ridgway Alley Poems, co-director of Open Bard Poetry Series and contributing writer for Telluride Inside and Out. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fugue, The Lascaux Prize 2015 Anthology, Prime Number, Memoir, Thrush Poetry Journal, Mason's Road, Pilgrimage, and more. She received her MFA degree at Pacific University.

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