The Way It Began
They went, not in the day, but then in the dark with no shoes on their feet, the road pokey with broke-up shell.
And the boy to the girl, Let’s be quick.
I can’t, said the girl. My feet are girly.
The boy to the girl, That’ll change, and held back a branch, thought she’d passed but heard the snap and then the girl, Can’t you even try being nice?
By day, by the river, they kept to scrub, hid among boulders, slept with their shoulders cool against granite.
Just wind, he said. Wind heard in the night, whushed through fir trunks. By morning the woods quiet, not a limb cracked on the path.
He was afraid of kind words in the dark.
She was afraid of finding a heart safety-pinned inside her jacket.
Berries in the brush, tart against tongues, the boy’s lips stained, Like a girl, the girl said.
The boy to the girl, You’d like that.
The girl laughed and said, I guess we’ll find out.
Was she afraid she’d grow wings?
Was he worried she’d always sleep next to him?
They came to a town, kept to its limit. Lights on in houses and then lights off.
The boy to the girl, Do you miss much of it?
Not what I thought I’d miss, said the girl.
The boy woke scared and woke the girl.
Shoes and toast, said the girl to calm the boy. And the boy to the girl, Toast and milk. Then the girl, Milk and toast and shoes and soap.
And the boy to the girl, We better stop this and go to sleep
Rain, then not.
Dry ground, dry riverbed, knotty bramble and burr stuck so they picked at each other,
Like animals, said the boy combing fingers through her hair.
Good ones, said the girl licking salt from his arm
The girl to the boy, Will it always be this way?
The boy to the girl, Can you even remember the way it began?
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Photo by Bill Hayward
Victoria Redel is the author of two books of poetry and three books of fiction, most recently The Border of Truth. A new collection of poems, Woman Without Umbrella, and a story collection, Make Me Do Things, are forthcoming in 2012 and 2013. More on Victoria Redel at Victoriaredel.com