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Jessica Ford

    Earlier, she asked me, mouth to the cotton fog in my ear, can I take you home tonight? Now, the lemon-sour softness of my jaw is traced over by her fingers, tender as the grass blades prickling under my spine, needles ready to be sewn in. Pine dents beneath my weight, licking my elbows, sharp like her nails. My concave chest stays bared to a cotton candy sky with sugar clouds too far for tasting, my ribs caved inward, the lincoln log assembly of limbs left slack. She plucks off pieces, picks at me as if selecting parts for a collection beneath her bed, trinkets made from my marrow. Stems stick to me—through me—gooseflesh skittering over every fiber of exposed skin while slick red sap seeps through my clothes until I’m wet, until I’m cold. The smell is absent now, nothing but hot air in my nose that fills nostrils up and heaves right out—just once—as though it isn’t meant to stay long enough to be known and held and loved. I see her shape—an oil painting of dripping wet leaves and branches—above me, eyes tracing my bits and bones, and I know she’s memorizing every part of me there is to bury. 

Spring 2024

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