By | 1 September 2023

Desire was once an uninterrupted afternoon —
tongues lurid from corner-shop sherbet
as we’d run to the lake. We had nothing
in common but the name of our street
and the fleeting adulthood of unsupervised water.

Somewhere between Flowers in the Attic
and One Direction, you started
looking different to me, started

going to the lake on your own
to fish while I oh so Ophelia rehearsed
how I’d drown, making only the most tragic shapes
amongst KFC shipwrecks.

Afternoons weren’t interrupted enough. Instead,
spent willing my phone
to notify me of anything.
In the active bar on Messenger,
a green orb hovered above
your name like the light over
the dock of Tom and Daisy.
Tell me, Gatsby, would you believe
me if I said Rorschach
blotted that bay for you?

Twelve years later,
neither of us live there.
I return and wonder
how in that water, you could see a hand
and I: a mouth.

I know you’ve been back,
fishing rods strapped heterosexually
to the roof of your car,
but your line never caught
the image of me
beneath it.

When someone drowns,
if they cannot cough up the water,
they try to swallow it instead.

I only ever pretended,
but I know how that water would’ve tasted —
like that green orb
or catching a cold in summer:
a salty reminder
that just because it’s sunny,
it doesn’t mean the day warms
for you

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