K’s eyes were wild violets rinsed by rain. His laugh a ladder to the top-most floor. 23. Dark hair unruly. He thought there would be planes. To feel that pressure press before the open blue. Familiar machines. Metal’s symmetry. Joint to joint. Simple. He could shoot. Killed his first squirrel at 5. Watched it fall from the tree. Fur still holding wind. Stood over it. Stroked the tail. Such softness his hands quaked. What would you do to escape? Dust settled in his father’s lungs and drowned him in fiber. Bound by. Kudzu. So many children. In his dreams, wide bowls howled. K’s future a golden string snaking green. He was the oldest. Joined the Marines. Strapped his gun tight. A shield. Charged the dunes. The sky black with smoke. Like swimming in the night. The ripe air burned his eyes. He traced the bones of my spine and sand rose to meet horizon. Do you remember the first time you saw blue? His hand up my neck. My silky curls. Two flames for eyes. Those days I was always burning. My uncle. My brother strip-searched at the airport. K’s fingers crested my shoulders. Down my valleys. Safe now, he whispered. I watched the dunes shift behind his eyelids. Covered his mouth with mine. Give me your breath. K cupped my neck. You. Look. Like them. The first patrol. He jumped off the truck. A body. Unveiled. The glossy black curls. Quaking with wind. Touched her cheek. My cheek. My grandmother’s cheek. My grandmother’s hands of honey. My aunt’s hands of blood. Nothing thick enough. To hide the children. Pebbles in a dry river. They begged the mountains. The sand. The greedy desert air. They begged everything. You have the gun, so here is my money. You have the gun, so here is my body. You have the gun, so here is my country. The sun seared his pupils blind. Where was the forest’s silence? The stream in spring? Everything narrows to the people next to you. Their heartbeat’s thunder. I roll over. Spread my legs. K’s eyes calm to glass. He wanted to trap the sky. Claim cloud. I cannot give more than the earth’s sensation. I let him begin with taste.
Claudia F. Saleeby Savage is part of the performance duo Thick in the Throat, Honey. Her latest collection of poetry is Bruising Continents (Spuyten Duyvil) with recent work in BOMB, Denver Quarterly, Columbia, Nimrod, Water-Stone Review, and Anomaly (the interview series “Witness the Hour: Arab American Poets Across the Diaspora”). She is a 2018–2021 Black Earth Institute Fellow and her collaboration, reductions, with visual artist Jacklyn Brickman, is forthcoming in 2021 in Detroit and Portland. Her poetics are influenced by rabid reading, Alice Coltrane, and long hikes in drippy forests. She lives with her husband and daughter in Portland, OR.