100. Site Fidelity

We survey the grass blades for seeds, for a place

as my arm wraps around you like thicket

because I fear I’ll lose you through the sumac and tallgrass

tipsy from the wine of bitter Kansas grapes

while my left hand snags your cocklebur hair

the same way men treat the prairie, you say,

the way men pull at its covers until bare,

so we take turns examining the ground for surface scars,

for what was planted, as if our own bodies—the mark

down my back, the one you have but can’t show, and the one

on your hip that the sun sets shadows upon—

as darkness is catching up with the dark that exists,

and you admit you were afraid to come out here

because of coyotes, the animals wild at night,

after I admit I am afraid of night itself,

how it washes the red sky with indigo, with shadows

widening on our faces, on my open arms of hillsides,

and as you trace the backwards question mark

of the lion that only protects the night sky in spring,

you whisper how we are the cardinals

we hear, returning home,

as you close your eyes first, as we slip

into the landscape our lips make

with its tinge of cedar from prairie fires,

the taste of restarting,

of those crimson feathers rising

in rows of birds that migrate back

free, restless, and blazing—

Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and their two sons in Topeka, Kansas. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Kansas and teaches at Washburn University. He is Co-Managing Editor of Woodley Press, Poetry Editor for seveneightfive, and hosts the Top City Poetry Reading Series. Work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, RATTLE, BlazeVOX, kiosk, Poetry Midwest, Coal City Review, Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, and seveneightfive.

Photo by Kevin Rabas


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