for Darin

in foggy darkness everyone disappeared
empty footprints left in clotted mud
            and deep in plush carpet

fingerprints left on paper coffee cups
on countertops in local cafes

echoes still bouncing back and forth
across the Grand Canyon

in a blink i was alone
at the outskirts of my border town
where the train tracks crossed
and tagged boxcars now stood
resigned to early rust

after a few days the power went out
window             after               window
one streetlamp                         then another

the darkness followed me as i wandered
as though i were flipping all the switches
as i passed

i found you in the back
of an old tattoo parlor shrouded in dust

you sat on the floor
as ink began to crust with blood
over the small symbol you’d just finished
tattooing on the inside of your wrist


i thought at you
and you stopped and looked around,
       brow furrowed

i watched you find a shower at the back of the shop
       it must have been the only running water                   in the city
i watched while you stripped naked
       for a second i felt you would strip yourself to bone
              the way you clawed
              off your clothes
              as though they burned you

but you baptized yourself, head bowed

the spray pouring over you
            warm rivulets streamed down your thighs
red and black ran down to your fingertips
from the lone               z e r o                          on your wrist

i found a stack of musty towels
in a nearby closet
and when you finally turned the spigot and raised your head

you looked directly at me

i padded over to you, shoes discarded,
offered a towel

a thin golden strand threaded between our eyes
as we watched each other,                                          s i l e n t

you sized me up
then let me pat you down
                                                pat               pat                   pat
with the towel
my fingers lingering in your hair,
            damp and soft as puppy down,
pausing at your lips
            to feel the warm breath
            on my skin

your breath tingled my hands

            how long since i felt goosebumps
            since the light hair on my arms stood alert
                        and at attention
            how long since one simple touch

i closed my eyes
you interlocked your fingers
            with mine

and since that day
we’ve walked from town to town
watched the earth slowly reclaim its body
no need to hurry

two zeros became one

once, we passed a cinema
where movies somehow still
s t r e a m e d     s i l e n t l y
down from the silver screen
onto empty seats,
waves and particles of light
giving a half-life to films half-remembered

today we drift through a city
that’s forgotten its name
the sky above blushes in embarrassment,
            sun ready to slink below the horizon
            and hide
as we see the forgotten metropolis

its buildings left
negligently in the care
of sun and sky
reduced to brittling skeletons
by the wind’s sharp bite

window             after               window
one streetlamp                         then another,

the light follows us as we wander

as though we’re flipping all the switches
as we pass

Liana Kapelke-Dale