Patrick Loafman has published poems in over eighteen journals (including Adirondack Review, Open Spaces and Bellowing Ark), two chapbooks of poetry and is currently trying to get his first novel published. This prose poem is from an unpublished chapbook manuscript titled, Hymns Written with Birds’ Tongues, which was a semi-finalist in Floating Bridge's 2007 Chapbook competition.
I’m exhausted. I’ve been trying to call the heron back to my pond.
I felt as though I might fly, she says, nibbling the back of her knuckle the way a purple finch might preen a wine-colored feather before jumping from the top of a fir.
She oozes sexuality. It rises from her flesh like humidity. She wears blue lipstick and laughs a lot. But when she touches me I can see through her flesh.
The sun’s warm, but the page is turning…leaves the color of bruised lemons…and the moon is confused, showing his face in the daytime.
Call me bird, she says, before disrobing and slipping into the pond…common yellowthroats with black bandit masks, hop and chatter in the sedges…the pond swallows the full moon.
I pretend to ignore her, not to catch glimpses of her slick breasts as they break the surface. When she dives her butt rises, her legs kick, then she vanishes for well over two minutes, and I try to hold my breath the entire time she is under but never can.
When she re-appears my hair has turned gray and lines are etched in my flesh.
The math is all wrong, I being fifty and she only twenty-five.
When she leans forward, maple leaves tumble from between her breasts.
A birthmark on her shoulder resembles a tadpole growing legs, as though it might become a frog, leap from her and land inside my belly button. I tell her this and she laughs, and then we dance, naked and sweating, through the longest days of summer.
I write everything that she whispers into my right ear. When I kiss her, I inhale the words she could never speak. She doesn’t seem to mind. It’s all just a game.
She’s childlike, twisting in her Sunday dress like a twelve-year-old, instead of twenty-five…the math all wrong…she grins and slips through time as though my mind were a pond…re-surfacing twenty-five years later like two minutes had passed, finishing a story she started back then…the sun turning gray…
I might fly, she says, handing me a blue feather, diving back into the water, and I tremble, but she always re-surfaces. She could dive and re-appear with the moon clenched firmly between teeth. I’ve seen her do it many times.
I follow her everywhere, with my eyes, my eyes.
She sings to the turtles, the wrens, the metallic beetles.
I tear love notes into bite-sized pieces and swallow them. They taste like dried kelp.
I now wear black and do not move much or say anything. I have a pencil and a pad of blank paper. I have blue veins on the backs of my hands.
She sketches in the sand…sound of her finger drawing landscapes…drawing long-legged birds…blue sons made from blue stones…
I place a stone in my belly button…she kisses the bridge of my nose…I see through her flesh, well past tomorrow…
I lie as close to the earth as possible, feel the wind as I hurl through space on the back of the blue planet...birds hop across the sand, sketch small worlds with their toenails.
My pencil fails to sprout green buds, it being October and all…
I appear to be doing nothing but I’m inhaling the unsung words of Autumn into my gut, swallowing bitter leaves, page by page…the foliage tickles the insides of my stomach like thoughts of a distant romance…like a frog emerging from the pool of my throat, leaping free from my lips.
I’ve been motionless long enough that a few brash sparrows land on my neck, their sharp toenails give me gooseflesh…touch me then fly…a brief moment circling like moths around a hot light bulb: we were only twenty-five, back then…Bird flew away…son turned gray.
Five decades circle and land like a kiss on the bridge between her and me…falling leaves like so many children…falling into the mud of adulthood…falling like a bird who forgot how to fly.
I just want Heron back…a single blue feather to press between my palms…her slick blue breasts…laughter…landscapes drawn with a hot finger across flesh.
I’ll swim with her next time, despite the chilled air…I’ll dive deep, hold my breath until bright lights flash behind my lids, re-surface with the full moon gleaming between my teeth.