Susan Tepper


The Monarchs are swarm­ing and it’s only the begin­ning of August.  The maple leaves that over hang the deck look dif­fer­ent.  The air has changed.  As if each is say­ing: death is every­where.  I saw you the oth­er day.  On the oth­er side of the street.  You had to see me— my hair is wild flames, you always said how it burned your skin when we made love. Why didn’t you look over?  Lift a hand to wave or just give me a lit­tle nod? Would that have killed you?  But maybe you are already dead in that deep cen­ter, the place I tried to find warmth; some­where to burn me the way you claimed I burned you.  Didn’t you know I died to be burned?  It’s our crit­i­cal dif­fer­ence.  You like it cool, detached, you like things sev­ered, even your food.  I ate my Cornish hens whole and you scat­tered from the kitchen like I am a can­ni­bal.  You’re a man.  I thought men ate things whole: wig­gling fish fresh from the lake with beer chasers, par­tridges shot right out of the sky to be wolfed down, flecked wild mush­rooms with bugs that hugged their tight pleat­ed ridges, scary and dark, picked off the for­est floor.  You didn’t look my way.  You looked straight through oth­er people’s backs.