a t o m    a r i o l a



Garment of Letters



Afterwards, when
                         my words
no longer

stuck to your mouth
and you hung
                                      up the phone as the water rose,

             you looked back past
the vacant lots strung with clothes

and tire guts just outside the broken window.

This is not autumn.
This is not winter.
                                      You will not miss me.
Still, you felt the leaning
                                                                          of something larger against your own weight.

                                      There, in the vanishing
point the horizon insisted on, you couldnít help

but notice the movement
                                      of all things
                                                               and saw yourself for a second as
                         a migratory fish might see
                         the waterís flow.

It is not hard to touch
the dishes left in the cupboard, stillborn objects

                                     named to create order in our lives,
the milk still in the carton, silking the cup as it pours,
                                                  that little bit of money beneath the rug
just in case.
                         In your sleep,
horses do not clamor from the wound in the sky,

                                                                though the clouds would make it seem that way.
This much is true.
Even as the world slowed
                                                  down into evening, your hand
reached through the barbedwire fencing to cordon off
                                       the sundownís squared hymnal. This is not summer.
This is not winter.

This is the season of red ants
                                                  coming out of the cracks
                                    in sidewalks and we mark time, oddly,
            you and I, this way.

Stripmalls creep towards the west.
                         Your hand opens,

distancing the regression of half notes
                         into now, and you see your body as a yellowing thing

swept aside by some vast rain
                                       into the dusk of an unkempt fermata.

See. thereís nothing to atone for.
Nobody to forgive.

This is not summer. This is not
summer. This is not summer.

                                                 You downshift to third as you drive
and the odor of burned clutch
                                                 reminds you of roadkill or sex. You put

                                                 your finger between
                                                 her legs and taste it again.

Afterwards, I picked up the phone

and listened to my own breathing, smelled my own snot in my nose.
                                    I wanted to tell you what
I forgot to say. Something like,
                                                            when you get back,
                         Iíll show you the different kinds

of leaves Iíve gathered

from the abandoned overpass, how

the television tells me
                                                    somewhere in the North, somewhere in the South, armies

are gathering, burning stones,

for something.


Garment of Letters

I say the wind is a river
pushed to it
the easy rust makes hues
carry on without me
into some other season
there is no name for how
whatís in my mouth
fish entrails smear the page
is only autumn or
water from the stars

& she touches my eyes
her hands praying alone where
until the waters singular apart
and come together from here
I cannot tell you if
the relic of jasmine sweat on her wrist
is the zero inside the sun
salt blossoming
skin also only a sound
lights over our bodies


ATOM ARIOLA lives in the Southwest where he writes and practices law. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Volt, Denver Quarterly, Copper Nickel, and elsewhere. He was educated at Temple University.

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