Cole Caswell, Deserted American Dreaming, Diablo Wandering (inkjet print), 11”x14”, New Mexico, 2014

Creekwater cradle. Swans in gowns.
Your face is a lost ship drifting
in amber dim. Just as my palms
are smoke animals. They swallow
each tiny flame gasping for breath.
Summer—a slow turning. That blade
of red citrus, sweetness knifing
the throat. We sit by the riverside.
I first build palaces, then promises
of matchstick & fir. Mayflies halo
our crowns, sparking like pale sores
as you cling to the brook’s torso.
Like any false lover it rushes forth,
breaks against touch. It’s not about
cleanliness, but how your virgin dress
stains in sun-skeined froth. & no, it’s
not about love, but how I beheaded
your larkspur offspring, plaited them—
sepal chains locked to your windpipe.
In the end, I can only listen to forest
sounds arranged into words by ghosts.
When you capsize, a voiceless maiden
ship embracing a marble-blue river, what
I did not think to grasp for are the flames
lacing your darkened skirts. The dusk
water stills, begins its own courtship.


Jacqueline He