My second relationship looked something like this:
spun from what was left
in the kitchen each night, all fish
and sinew. He had the largest hands,
butcher-palms, blood under the nails,
and his teeth were white scarecrows
after too many fights. The salt-blue eyes
stared as he forced my head back
into the sink and hair down
into the drain, flipped the switch.
The teeth whirred, and the knives nearby
became birds charading
in children’s clothes. I tilted my head
farther back until I could see the sky
through the small window:
the stars were going by in small pools.
BABYSITTING: THE CRISIS
We are sitting in a worn-out cafe, with fruit
a little too far gone, and she decides to explain it
to me like this: the neighbors’ boy was there
while the parents were away, the summer heat
beating down, all the birds like feathered shade
along the electric wires. She poured the oil
and sunscreen into his small hands, drenching
the palms, and she asked him to rub the concoction
across her skin. Her back, at first, and then her arms.
Her legs. And when he arrived in front of her, standing
between her knees, she remembers how he—gently,
child-like—touched two fingers to one side of her face,
and then the other, rubbing the oil into her blushing cheeks.
He was so close, she could feel the coolness
of his breath where the oil was drying, and she kissed him.
She says it was fast and soft, and the boy was quiet,
looking around as if searching for more clothes. I am part geranium.
I imagine this boy, the lotion on his hands, pressing
and releasing, and then the kiss—which opened up
every sense in the world. How he, too, could lean in
and start something small.
McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives and writes in South Bend, Indiana, where she teaches composition at Indiana University South Bend. She received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University, where she worked as the Layout and Design Editor for New Issues Poetry and Prose. Her poems have appeared in Encore Magazine, Sleet Magazine, Rogue Agent, Thank You for Swallowing, and Analecta; and her book reviews have appeared on The Rumpus. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com. Selected by Oliver de la Paz.
Image © Stephanie Sicore via Flickr Creative Commons.