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Ruth Foley


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Let there be gravel roads pressed into feet
softened by a winter in hard-soled shoes.
Let there be sharp grasses in thin strips

on the roadside. And hornets in the grass,
or shards of glass, and sand too hot to stand on
and water too cold to stand in. Let us

splash it on our arms and shake, and shake
our hands. Let there be seaweed in red tufts
and jellyfish in near-invisible globules and

something soft and scaled underfoot. Salt
cracking on our skin in the merciless
August sun. Merciless sun. Waves that strike

against our turned backs, roll us under
and around. Let our mouths open without
sound. Let there be a turmoil of glittering

sand in the whirl of water. Let it restrain us
from the bellowing air. Let our eyes be open.
Let us revolve and pitch, curl and twist.


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Would you follow me to vapor? It seems
a lot to ask—perhaps a haze has risen
over my judgment. Once I submerge, I
tend to crave ascension—I seldom stay
anchored long. If we ran underground, found
a bed to fill, and flowed past a half-owned
stolen bride, maybe she could teach us
to crest bisected, or resign ourselves to being

only partly sanctuary. Face it: the more
we linger, the more we threaten flood.
The trickle of your fingers on my skin was
like a rumor, but I would break the ground
if you would tumble, if you would find
a crevice or a passage, one that leads to me.


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You didn't have to cleave the ground,
or emerge spitting, dirt tumbling from
your shoulders. I would excavate to you,
split my fingernails against rocks and rubble,
drive the soil before the torn bulldozer
of my arms. I would raze all hope of garden.
You didn't have to steal anyone, there was
no need for deceit. I was already living

half my life under ground. Let the world
go hungry—we could still be fed. Hell is
above the earth, is the pretense of joy when
plants begin to bud, is the vines twining trees,
is the roots straining for you. Here, I am always
cold, ransacking the lavish field for an ember.


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What's mine is yours. If you would only
speak into the pool, I could answer. Don't
say you are obsessed with your reflection—
you cannot look that far ahead. Instead,
you ring within your self-possession. I might
as well be stone. It was certainly easier then.
Any man can hold the glass of his inaction.
Any man can use a mirror as a doorway.

If you escape, I may not follow. If you stay
silent, I won't speak. Become the shallows
into which I wet my feet or the depths to which
you'd have me sink. Give me the words and I
will speak them. Or draw your hand across
this faultless wet and watch us both dissolve.

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