Alysse Kathleen McCanna’s poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming from Poet Lore,TriQuarterly, Nimrod, Pembroke, CutBank, Lunch Ticket, and other journals; her reviews have appeared in American Book Review. Her chapbook “Pentimento” was published by Gold Line Press in March 2019. She holds an MFA from Bennington College and serves as Associate Editor of Pilgrimage Magazine. She is a PhD candidate in English at Oklahoma State University.
That summer, I stood naked in front of the window air conditioner,
all shame of my awkward body slicked away like so many drops of sweat.
The blue carpet of our first apartment was rough but I loved the lines it left
on my husband’s thighs, and I loved drinking beer and holding the glass
against my cheek, then his. I cradled young visions of joy in the offing,
before he went off to war and stayed, before armies took their stand
After the divorce, I stood before hotel room windows and surveyed
each new city’s distorted lights, the air conditioner’s steady stream
against my knees. The man I’d chosen instead sometimes combed
and braided my hair, sometimes pressed me against the glass.
His temper was tropical but I loved the lines it left
on my back, and I loved taking the grief of his ravaged life
and holding it against my cheek. I harbored hope thin and strong
as spiderweb, before he went off to another’s bed and stayed,
before my armies laid down their weapons,
August seems just so much feverish tenderness,
a suspicious hallucination full of eyelashes and fingertips,
this large night impersonating oven as I lie on sweat-soaked sheets
and feel alive on an ocean, surprised that I’m awake and the man
beside me brings ice and wildflowers, so much true and undeserved
sweetness, and I take it—drink like a starving convict, as fast
as I can bear, in case it runs dry.