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Without Ceremony

Once, many skies ago, we drove across the ache
of Kansas straight to the base of a large mountain.
We were nearly engaged. We were close to knowing
each other. At the peak I couldn't breathe and I
was elated. A fear with a name and I named it. Hypoxia.
Asphyxia. Things we might call a daughter. Later,
we played on pinball machines from the '30s.

There was a natural soda spring. I still can't explain it.
Something else I loved. There were animals
that popped from the mountainsides, built of curled horns
and indifference. Our raft nearly wrapped
around a boulder. At the take-out point, I jumped in
and almost drowned from the weight of water
ballooning my jacket. I didn't drown. Neither

did you. I loved that, too. I learned that gin
comes from the juniper tree. Could we name
a daughter Juniper? There was an early evening the color
of whiskey, all the trees sending out their air
of clean and quiet, six hummingbirds spinning
their wings around us on our cabin porch. On a hike
too hard, lightning flashed. The ground growled.

Here, too, I thought we might die. Then we didn't.
That night the primavera had just been invented.
We were toasting syrah to luck and odds. Outside,
the night dropped its blanket of lake water.
But inside a fire burned. It was meant to be
rustic. It succeeded, or we let it. Something
always worried me, my fear a constant shark,

but there it stopped circling, grew feathers.
It nested in the rafters, suddenly a quiet starling.
One night we ate chili rellenos. One night we drove
far out. We were lost in a strange neighborhood.
Meteors blitzed over the dome of sky without ceremony.
You held my head in your hands. We stood there.
We stood and heard lowing. We stood and heard wind.

Catherine Pierce

The Girls of Peculiar
Saturnalia Books

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