like the Virginia waterfalls
his eyes undressed her and
yet, his stiff smile
demanded such reverence
from her.

like the hawkweeds of summer,
his eyelashes, cast fringed shadows on his cheeks
whenever he closed his eyes…
freckles floating
like nutmeg
on his creamed complexion.

His touch
caused the downy ringlets
on her neck
to stand rigid, the way
static electricity did
whenever they came together

their affair
far from the reach of others.

His ownership of her
confused her since
ownership of anything was
something she’d never understood

never having owned anything herself
material wealth
not even an identity.

Her ownership of him
lasted all of one hour
of each day

of each week
the months
stretching into years
or however long it took semen rivulets
to carve shame
into his flaccid
forty-year-old flesh

to erode history
from the face
of Mount Rushmore

that stiff smile
still commanding such reverence

she lay prone
frown forming
an indentation
in the shape
of a question mark
on his pillow,
blood on satin sheets leaving
a period
on the end
of a lifelong sentence.


When she was eight
her petticoat had been
spotted red
from his daughter’s rage

fueled by displacement
blurred boundaries
and lost lineages.

He’d taught her not to cry
no matter how deep the wound
handkerchief pressed to her temple.

He’d taught her everything
she knew about life―
everything: plants, animals, music, culture.

She’d learned to tie her own shoes
to smile
and keep going.

This, she’d learned
with a pat on the head
his hands, the color of powdered wigs,
soft like the feather of a quill pen.

These days’ll never end…

She’d assumed, wanting
what he’d been to her
what she’d been to him
to remain as it was


But her spidery countenance
had begun to plumpen
and curve

to strain
against every seam
of every garment…

beauty bursting at all angles
had filled the gaps
of a self-effacing smile
where once there’d been baby teeth.

Her siren good looks
had sealed that once
respectable distance
between master and minion
where the ragged edges of adolescence
once reigned…

and, one day
while serving tea
her supple silhouette
had splashed
upon the sunlit floor
of his chamber
her eyes
green-flecked pools
of liquid amber, shimmering
in the fading light…

gave way to
buttons popped
his smooth, soap-like hands
unlacing the ribbons
on the fine gowns he bought her….


and so she was, and
he was
all she had―
would ever have.

over this new way
in which he regarded her
drove her to please

to hold on
in the confusing way
she knew how

and though
her actions said yes
she felt certain
she meant to tell him