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by Joy Sullivan

The ink pictures sleep on his body, rising
like dragonfish to glisten on the surface.
At night, they wrinkle up in the shadows
and whisper across his bare chest.

The first one, a blackened star, names
the time and day he will leave.
I smother it with my palm.
Sometimes, the horse on his right
shoulder blade begins to weep,
says goodbye in a strange language
I translate on the exhale.

There are words too, common as pennies,
scattered about: truth behind the left ear,
tomorrow crawling up his spine.
I hold forever between the soles of my feet.

When he dreams, they begin again,
calling, roiling in the heavy dark,
spitting into the blackness. I claw
at them, anxious as a torn flounder
desperate to drown.

Only the tree that stretches along
his right side never speaks. I trace
the bark between my lips, kiss blessings
across the branches, slender as wrists,
carve our initials with my tongue.

In Autumn, I watch the leaves tremble
like muscles and fall one by one.

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Image modified from Source.

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Joy Sullivan is a poet and teacher living in Columbus, Ohio. Her work has recently appeared in Boxcar Poetry Review, Periodisa, and Columbus Creative Cooperative’s anthology.

Where do you get the ideas for your poems?

Inspiration for my poems come typically through an evocative word or image that I experience. Sometimes I’m just in love with a phrase and am then forced to create a poem in which it can live. Most of the time, I just write until something happens.