Tonight, They Say, Later, Jenni

by Amanda Skjeveland

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Tonight we will know each other, the night air
tickling our skin like eyelashes in mid-wink,

hinting at fluttering, horrible, teasing secrets.
We will take turns chasing them, cornering them

as the other watches in disbelief, until one of us
clamps a secret by its wings, finishes the wink,

forces the eye to close, and suddenly it is morning.
We’ll need coffee before we can bear to look

at its remains, its hobbled spindly legs, what used to be
its wings smeared into glittering dust on the pillowcase.

They Say

Read me a poem, they say.
Stand up alone in front of me
so I can watch you

as you tell me a secret,
unexpected and candid
like a lover’s pillow-tears
on a rainy night
when words flow
clean and free
in torrents,

as you confess a crime
that makes me shy
from your gaze,
helplessly linked with you
because you are only
illuminating my own ideas
when the world gets heavy
enough to droop my eyelids
and skew my sight,

as you reveal your body in love,
pressing my palm to the
rhythmic contractions  
that empty your heart
and send your blood
thick and hungry
to your skin,

as you invite me in
to graze on your tragedy
before I file away
with the others
through double-doors,
reviewing your innards
like Sunday’s brunch
that was served with
too many expectations.


I am angry at you, again,
and you have clasped
my arms to hold me
from doing something
that will go on my list
of things I am sorry for.

We’ll talk later, you say,
and I wrestle away
from you and sulk
on the porch
while you sleep.

At dawn, I search
the night’s wreckage.
I open the fridge,
looking for sweet,
thick coffee creamer,
and I see you’ve put
your bottle of beer in there,
drunk all but the last two inches,
chilled and waiting,
as if with fresh lips
you would return
to something
so bitter and stale.


Propped against the willow tree,
she wanted you long before you came;
her dirty summer hands raised
the plastic version of you
to her still-awkward chest
to offer her essence
before it was time.
For years she must have known
you were coming
as she planted footprints
for you to fill
and danced,
brave and irresistible,
like the willow’s branches.
She would not have believed
her heart would fail her,
the umbilical cord
having made its transfer
but not yet fallen from you,
its strong core barely shriveled.

Amanda Skjeveland’s work is currently in, or will shortly be appearing in Flutter Poetry Journal, Burst, and Melusine. She lives with her husband and two little boys in Maryland, where she teaches English and edits the literary magazine at a community college.

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