swan vesta

“i am just too awesome for this world,” i said
knowing it would make you laugh
as i unscrewed the little aluminium vial
that hung from my handbag (still does, you know)
where i keep the precisely 15 swan vestas that fit inside

i struck one on the concrete
where we sat, indifferent to the consequences
absorbed by the pleated tartan skirts
your mother had chosen
(she’d have a fit if she knew
i was wearing your spares)
in which to bind you (us)
for your (our) own good
(as if repeating a catechism
could have remade us)

i lit another cigarette
while you tugged your tie loose
and i blew smoke straight up
into the dry, hot, imminent summer

i hadn’t thanked you, yet
for pulling that asshole off of me
for kicking him in the ribs
while he was bashing the back of my head on the sidewalk
after the dance last week
i hadn’t thanked you, at least, not properly
not in the way I really wanted
forming the words directly into your mouth
instead of your ears

i felt the ground, abrasive under the tips of my fingers
as i furtively, desperately trilled them next to your hip
knowing you knew where i’d rather my fingers lay
bound with yours, forcing them closer
sinking them into the one place where i feared
a single touch might kill me
knowing you would share even this with me
if i asked, and if i waited too long to ask
you would take it upon yourself to obviate my hesitation

there were questions, of course, even then
not mine, of course, not yours
for in the shroud of the trust we shared
no secrets could find purchase
no, these were the questions of others
who could not fathom the strangeness
of we two and the game we played
heading into the last summer
in which we could still pretend it was a game
only two months before ignoring the disconnects
would no longer be an option
the ones that lay within me
and the one that would become difficult to bridge
with hundreds of miles scheduled to come between us

that night, you carefully hung our (your) skirts
in their usual place 
took my hand, quietly
and suddenly there was nothing left between us
nothing between me and a reality i was refused
except a gulf as wide as the stars
you struggled not to breathe so loudly
that we’d be discovered
i put each of your fingers to my mouth
like snuffing out vestas
each one a deliciously sharp knife
you bowed your head before me 
returning the favor the only way possible
as my tears fell upon your hair

you were first, last, and always
and as it turned out
i lived to see my swan, alight from within, take wing

gemma seymour-amper, 29 september 2013