The Orchard Keeper

Tory Adkisson

I know his body by the sound of his handsworking their way through brambles.By the orchard where his spirit was spit on& sharpened. His teeth cusped downon my shoulder until it broke autumn-redbeneath the moon's slow floodback when I thought bleeding was romantic.We spent hours out there, ruttingin the mud, his hand pressed against my chestlike a talisman, stirring somethinginside me, something to make me forgethow I'd never seen fireflies before—or felt love.How everything I did was pretend.Cautiously, I told him how little I knewof what we were doing. How deep I felthis hand scrape for apples I didn't carry.The fireflies beaconing along the groundlit up the slack nooses of his eyes.I searched desperately for a handI could hold on to or follow. Surelyhe could see my eyes, tied in sheepshanks,couldn't bear his weight without failing.

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Tory Adkisson is the author of The Flesh Between Us (SIU Press 2021), winner of the Crab Orchard Series Open Book Competition. His poems have appeared widely in journals such as Third Coast, Crazyhorse, Adroit Journal, Boston Review, Quarterly West, and elsewhere. He lives in Oakland and teaches writing at UC Berkeley.

"Tory Adkisson’s poems are fervent, vulnerable. He illuminates the ‘wilderness of flesh’ that divides and connects us. I found myself leaning closer to his lyricism, his courage, his inventiveness. The Flesh Between Us is a powerful debut, rich with language that startles, lingers."
—Eduardo C. Corral, author of Guillotine

"Adkisson is a classical poet with a hard style. He can be both funny and dark. I admire his emotionalism when writing about love, lost love and the dangers of loving. His poems mix autobiography with myth as he tries to make sense of the chaos around him. His poems have backbone, and I admire this, too."
—Henri Cole, author of Blizzard and Orphic Paris

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