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Stephanie Cawley

Gracefulness Is Not the Absence of Clumsiness



There was a way of telling the story to a child

and a not-child at the same time. The flood,

the boat, the earth washed clean.


I want to kiss you again for the first time,

but what remains is rain, clouds, the sky

folding shut like a grey suitcase. Today a girl


in a green dress remarked on the open blue

just out of view beyond the jut

of blackened bricks from my balcony.


There was no rhythm to it, just a braid

unraveling. There was no ladder,

but a slow hill you didn’t notice yourself climbing.


But no that wasn’t it, exactly, more like waking up

on a battlefield clad in orange armor

and speaking French. More like appearing


at the head of a long table and addressing

your favorite ghosts: I move to keep you

humming inside a stray chord. Dreams,


someone says, are notable for their absent

transitions. Like film in this way. The scene

in the taxi. The scene of long silences


in the rain. You look in the mirror to find

your hair longer than you realized, your eyes

beginning to sag, your old face


departing, you understand, for good.

The maple leaves are yellow just on their ends

and I want to zipper their shape permanent


to my sleeve. I want to kiss you again

for the first time, to be ivy trellising

the back of a building, to sit down at a table


and never have to leave.


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