In The Open


I could say it happened among the salvia,
the alyssum, and the roses, and it wouldn’t be a lie.
Everywhere in the heat that shook that season,
heavy blossoms gave up more of themselves
to the humidity than anyone should ever
have to breathe. It wasn’t the air of a normal life.
There were bees, distracted deep along each
dusty anther or whining that caveat through clover
that always before had made me flee.

But it also happened beyond the flowers—
in a pickup that left blacktop to jounce over
country roads, the billow of yellow dirt behind us
a swirling arrow that might have told anyone, Here we are.
Happened, too, in the marble recesses of monuments,
against pillars, behind tombs, on the pea-gravel
walkways of velvet-roped plantations, on protrusions
of roots or on cliffs that overlooked water plunging
to kayaks and foam. It was a long summer, then

a long autumn, without walls. We never looked for walls,
because there was nothing to hide. Each day unspooled
beneath a sky that watched us with a cool blue gaze.
We were not contained. There are those of you who imagine
something small, sordid. Is that the fault of my story or
of your imagination? If the fault is mine, my penance will be
to tell and retell, each time missing my mark. It was the last
year that I was wholly in the world. Now every breath
is covert. Even I cannot tell you how I live my life.

Melanie McCabe