You see, it was hot orange light back in the forest by the rusted water tower where he said never turn this way, flames billowed, never want this way again. She couldn’t make out his face through the wood smoke and wasn’t sure what it was but a hunger, the kind only a virgin knows. This was primal. This was two people staring at each other through swirling dust and slide projector light, an art history lecture twenty years ago. He watched her chip clay off a thumbnail. Her hands were rough. She searched for him during lectures, his five o’clock shadow. What if she had gone with him to the water tower? “Always make eye contact,” her mother had said. The thought of him looking at her, the rush at the start of the hundred-meter dash. You forget a word and suddenly, bright fields and graffiti walls flash past a train window, and you remember. That’s what it’s like. For a moment, a clear thought will arrive: I shouldn’t want more. Take in another’s face, watch it shimmer. No one will stop you. Afternoon glows a streak of gold across the glass. Brooklyn. Blue gathers between black buildings. Golden-pink blur against glass. I ran back to you, ran the back of two fingers slowly along your face. As a child, you took in the galaxy within your room, glow-in-the-dark stars your father placed there one by one, knowing one day his son would know those winters were hiding something. Life unfolds, “becomes more gorgeous with time,” your mother will tell you, tucking you in. She believed this. The moment you name a longing it becomes a thing exposed. I read about a woman who blushes at the mere thought of a person walking past her. Leaning against you right now would be everything. I wake in the middle of the night worrying you are stuck in a storm. In seventh grade, we left the dance, fumbled our way along the dirt path of November and wood smoke the way I have been fumbling through my talk of desire. On a night hike at twelve, our camp counselor handed each of us a wintergreen lifesaver, urged us to chew it with our mouths open, and to watch. Small sparks, specks of glowing mint, lightning in our mouths that had not yet been kissed.
Sarah Anderson lives in a farmhouse with her husband, son, daughter, and puppy. She holds an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and has 15 years of high school teaching experience. With her husband, she owns and operates The Word Barn in Exeter, NH, a gathering space for literary and musical events, where she hosts a reading series, The Silo Series. Her poems have appeared in December Magazine, Off the Coast, and The Café Review. Find her at www.thewordbarn.com.