Rip Van Winkle Lodge
You were six and afraid of black cats
And ghost peppers,
Skinny enough to slip in and out
Like a shadow of the cabin pool,
Its neon water painted flat
To match ceramic tiles.
You forced yourself to
Dive for coins and
Feeling such a weight you forgot
The space in your head,
Its pressing you smaller and smaller inside.
The uncle who was nowhere,
Who showed you secret comics
And plastic stars
Taped into stories on the ceiling.
When the tall girls passed
Their long legs pulled you
Out of yourself.
Leaning on the pool’s clay edge,
Pulling straps of your bikini,
Secondhand so it hung from you
As a second skin,
As a sister dragged dowdy in the water.
You drowned her each time
You sank, dead man’s float that was pretend
And then so deep, her heart
Lay still a minute as you stared
At the white eye of sky,
Gnawing you both to one bone.
The boy I lost is a whisper
Shaped like a coat hanger
Left too long in the back of the closet.
In December I open all the windows
To let him back in,
Light candles emanating the medieval.
When I wake from the longest night of the year
He is pressed in the walls.
Together we hurtle through a darkness
That is like a rain coiled in me.
A storm against my spine
Makes me spill out from myself,
Toward him and his body that is no body,
No shape, like nothing I know
But slipping through a swarm of moths,
A cloud of them cloaking,
A thousand soft lashes that bring you to shadow.
Dip in and out of yourself,
The translucence of your skin in moonlight
And underwater, so thin,
The boundary between you and me
Blurs to blue nothings.
I draw a silk curtain
And pour milk from a vase.
Through a window somewhere in my eyes
You are riding horses
And dancing on the dust of this skyline
That moves and confuses.
Each day drawing a line
I must fill, sketch dark with parts of myself
Only you ever saw.
From afar you watched them fall in place.
Traced me multi-colored rain and cloud.
Disappeared with me,
An erasure like the shape air takes
When a bird has just flown through it
And out the other side.
© Shannon Cuthbert
Shannon Cuthbert is a writer and artist living in Brooklyn. Her poems have appeared in Bluepper, Collidescope, and Chronogram, among others. Her work is forthcoming in Ligeia Magazine, Green Silk Journal, The Oddville Press, and Schuylkill Valley Journal.