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The Mandolin


I tried to tell you about the barbed wire man
and how as a kid I was frightened of that starved
hound of his, the snarl and bite of wire round
the shack that he called home. You never listen
when I am like this. You invent ways to compare me
to a mandolin, your callused fingertips wanting to strum,
to pluck my body like a string. I shake you off.

The wire of my body is being stripped from the inside
out. The lining of my spine heaves with nerves
that are taut and frayed. I tell you I am afraid.
You never believe me. Instead, your nails move back
and forth across the frets of my wrist. You play
chords on my arm, croon "Don't be afraid, hush."

You sink into me on your couch and run me through
the lush green forests of childhood. You rehearse
me on your guitar, eyes half-closed against the bright
summer moon. I study your arms as you play,
mesmerized by the clawed fingers, the rusty
glint of hair. There is a river we cross and we pull one
another along through a crooked wire fence.
We arrive skin on skin and only slightly torn.
The wire man sleeps. We replace him with this.

 

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