There's a penny under the door, sandwiched
against the door stop, & it's been there
since we moved in. You've probably never
noticed it; I never pick it up.
One cent can't get anything these days.
What if you were in Paris on Friday, at a concert when
three men walk in and open fire on the room -- spilt
blood sticky like spilt beer, empty
bullet cases littering the floor like cigarettes,
red solo cups like poppies and you, like Dorothy, just fall asleep.
It will happen again, but we have to pretend not to know that yet.
This is the moment after the fireworks
have shot into the sky but before they've exploded
& we're just standing on the shorn grass, fresh clippings
sticking to our shoes & bare legs, looking up to the heavens.
"skinny dipping in lake paran"
Halfway there I want to turn back.
I am not the adventurous kind
and the night looms heavy behind me.
The forest rises up around us
like pillars or gods.
I bring up the rear, using
the flashlight on my phone
until someone shouts, Turn it off.
I wait for my eyes to adjust
to the moonlight.
My friends – women –
walk ahead with two
I didn't know were coming.
I think of my boyfriend at home – maybe
asleep but probably not.
If he didn't exist, if I didn't feel beholden
to another person, could I say
fuck it more easily and swim naked
with men I've only just met.
My friend's laugh waves
through the air like sonar
and through the night I follow it.
I am too afraid to go back alone.
The moon is as high as the noon sun.
On the shoreline, we strip. I slip
on the rocks wet with algae,
falter as I step into the lake.
Our limbs are extraterrestrial,
our arms and hands inadequate
to cover the coarse animal hair
between our legs. Or our breasts that glow
When we swim up to a floating dock
on the other bank I climb out
and lay on it as if sunbathing,
as though I might diminish
by begging someone
to look at me.
I look at the men
whose penises hang like pendulums.
Their chests glisten with water
from their hair. For a moment,
I am both young and mournful.
Nathalie Kirsch is a poet living in Boston, MA. She is a supervisor at an independent bookstore, an MFA candidate of the Writing Seminars at Bennington College, and some of her work can be found on the internet.