When I tell myself this story,

all the action takes place

under an empty sky.

Neighborhood bungalows

stare blankly into space;

no one cutting grass or walking dogs.

I might have been with Andrea,

or maybe just alone,

walking home from school;

long concrete stairs

cut into the grade from Blaine to 22nd—

blackberry, ivy knotting the rails, suffocating

the trees, but pretty,

and afternoon berries always warm.

I know it was afternoon

because he sits in a clump of shade

with his back to us,

wearing a gray suit;

not moving at all while we come down,

slowly crossing the flights

as if riding the tamest roller-coaster,

and then we’re on his stair,

close enough to see leaves under his shoe;

his belt and zipper.

Here is why I may have been alone:

when he said Touch it

no one else put out her hand.

He’s wearing a gray suit;

it must be afternoon because the sun

is low across his lap

and my hand has no nerves

to record the sensation;

I only have eyes to register the gray milk

emerging from where I could not say, exactly;

I don’t understand his geography.

For years I knew I had done something unusual.

My secret, small as a seed.

I don’t remember what happened next

except in silence he continued

to sit there,

and I went on into Monday and kickball;

morning show and tell

beside classroom windows raised

to sunshine and traffic.

I boarded a plane,

held my baby daughter,

watched her smile at the breast;

tried to give her softness when she screamed.

Even lying in bed,

husband at my back,

turning to take him into my hands or mouth or body;

I have seen

no discernable effect,

at least not when I read my life

like a newspaper,

checking the progress of events.

Where is the seed now?

A million years ago, my body sealed a thorn.

My body numbed the spot,

climbed straight into light and air.

When I tell myself this story,

the action takes place

on a staircase,

where I obey him.

There are soft berries, ivy waving.

If I don’t move a muscle,

I’ll be able to watch my hands and mouth

trying to bud

the word no.

Kristin Fogdall
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