By the time we’d uncovered the whalebone, our legs

were already thorned, dusted, turning indigo

with evening. Your hands were still

balmed with sagebrush, still stained

with sea figs we’d opened too early

when you asked me what it meant to be kept.

What it meant to be corked, to be pressed,

to be hung at the window.


When we met, you told me about the river

in your neighborhood, how you’d jump

from moss-covered cliffs into water,

that someday you’d live off those brambles

by the fork, and said

Wouldn’t you give everything

for a life so clean and right?


I remember those nights spent in the halo

of a lampshade, your hands

around the guitar, closing your eyes

while I’m sitting at the edge of the sofa

holding my breath, counting

the pinecones and snail shells

on my dresser, imagining a world

where I am without things, window-struck

with that heartache for groves and riverbeds.


So I’m holding one end of the whalebone

and you’re holding the other.

You ask me what’s keeping us

from casting it back to the sea,

this animal thing,

brined and sunburned brown.


And for a moment

I see you in the river

immaculate, juned,

all your keepings strewn at the edge

of the water, looking at me

waiting to let go.