These Humid Desires
Allison Alsup

When winter's forceps clamp around
the streets of that salty Northeastern town,
the subway's portal surfaces:
dusted by exhaust and dimly lit
a periscope on concrete; or the marquee
of a movie house fallen into disrepute.

Below the subway tunnel pumps with
the heated wetness of an internal organ;
a submerged lung gasping in the suck
of passing trains. Like yeast, flesh rises
with steam, that hurried breath of commute
and the body exhales, its skin porous as cork.

So easy here to sink into a slipstream
of longing; to imagine a fantastic sum
has fallen through the hole of
my coat pocket and lies nested
in the lining. To purchase the world:
Swiss chocolates, Chinese silk.

The throttle of an arriving train
brings with it a desperate flutter
like a moth landed on the tongue,
sodden sings that no longer lift
but beat against closed lips, I think
Two years now and still a stranger.

At home, there was no snow and
Mexico lay as close as the boy
who could have taken me there. Now
alone in a catacomb of wasted chances
comes the scent of something curdled
and sallow. I breathe through my scarf.

For as a wet swimsuit sealed in plastic
or oranges left on the sill, so too
these humid desires, things forgotten,
now lie bloated with fermentation
and only remain to be discarded
slotted away with the subway token

before the return to the surface
to the crimped faced of mediocre lovers
and offices tasting of novocaine,
to the winds that puncture the nostrils
and threaten to fray the edges
of my face; winds that splinter vice

into blanched chips, swept away, these winds
that sift desire, tincturing a grey powder
infertile as ballasted dirt or silt
collected at the bottom of an arctic lake,
these winds that dehydrate the heart
until it can be cupped by a thimble.

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-Allison Alsup