Salt over the shoulder and the babble-down evening
set the stage for this:
Rose hip oil. The twang of a loose b-string.
Corduroy (always corduroy). And the passing of small
bird songs between our protowords, our short
bursts of meaning and the quizzical glances we shared
after each quick breath. The old violet that polluted
each incandescent eye above us, found wilted
clover on the tips of our tongues—diamonds
that have given up and agreed to be dust. Here at the evil

end of beauty, the dirty spot where scrimshaw bathes
in ambergris and dries itself in sable, where polished skulls
line the walls with bright bejeweled eyes—this is where
our breathing brings us, as if memories were less jagged
than these visions, as if words could do more damage
than our tiny shapeless murmurings. There are chords
that should never be struck. Chords that sympathetic notes
reject. This was the message. We were both captured on
the machine saying our five second farewells, giving shape
to resignation. This and the blistering quiet after. This

and everything that came next: all those broken briars,
wet towels with no owners, notes both sung and written
on the line the breakwater leaves across our throats—
the only proof we need that the tide is coming in.

John Nieves