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By Tara Shea Burke

When we met we fell for each other like leaves.
Behind black curtains your bedroom was always dark
except for unexpected soft-yellow walls. Your dogs

would lie behind the closed door, waiting quietly
to be let in between us. Later, we became
four sloppy beings intertwined: fur, legs, breasts, sheets

skin, slobber, scents—all sleepy and sweet together, snoozing
until the bedroom’s next dark noon. We slipped pink steaks
between our wine-stained cuspids one night, chewing

and chatting by autumn city fire pit, enjoying the slow
getting-to-know-yous necessary to make something more
than just sex. Why would you want to fight in Iraq? I asked

between bloody bites, knowing the wrong answer might set
me off, make me primal, an animal wanting nothing more
than a few more nights: tipsy urge-easing evenings. Nothing more.

Your answers always surprised me. You taught me
more than I’d bargained for, the old me ready to run with one
wrong answer about war. You made me listen, and your body

suspended my judgment long enough to fall quickly. I worried
every night that I’d become a dry winter earth, cracked and cold
from holding in all the protest, just to experience, just once

what it was like to fall in love. That night, we took the fire
to the bedroom again. I expected the slow honey we’d made
to cool off, change shape. But I ate the thick sugar and finally

let go. I dreamt of you behind steel Navy-Walls at sea, not
active but present, taking down American-made enemies, awoke
in the dark and touched your skin, understood your choices

like most things that live in the raw honey between extremes. We
were two women finding beauty in clichés, in differences,
in overlaps, the sweet burn of sun on our skin as we fell to the ground.

Added: Monday, July 21, 2014  /  Burke's poem took Second Place in the Split This Rock 2013 Poetry Contest. We are grateful to Mark Doty, judge of the 2013 contest.
Tara Shea Burke
Courtesy of author.

Tara Shea Burke is a queer poet from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She served as poetry editor and co-creator for several small literary journals, and is a guest editor and board member for Sinister Wisdom, a Multicultural Lesbian Literature and Arts Journal. Her chapbook Let the Body Beg was published in 2014, and recent poems can be found in Adrienne, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Minola Review, Public Pool, The Fem, and Whale Road Review. She has taught in Virginia and New Mexico, and currently lives in Denver. Please visit her website

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