Winter 2021 - Poetry



  Winter 2021



Despy Boutris



As if we never touched—

that’s how we look at each other now.


As if we never met up that night

we hopped the chain-link


and watched shadows shift into shapes

in the golden light. How we lay supine


in the grass, chewing Starbursts

and complaining


about our twelve-year-old molars.

How side-by-side we counted clouds


and named constellations, how I turned

toward you and watched the wind


wind through your honeyhair,

watched it curl like the current in the creek


by our neighboring farms.

There were no sounds but the song


of breaths, the cricket calls,

and the arrhythmic boom of a bolt gun


making contact with hogs’ heads

in the barn down the hill. Nothing to see


but the swarms of flies and your irises

refracting starlight. No feeling


but the terror of being touched—

the terror of wanting it


too much, of shattering. And the feel

of twin bloodblisters on our hands,


fireflies flying in lungs. Do you remember

our hands twitching toward each other?


There was still that hillbilly lilt

to our speech as we smalltalked


and bigtalked, the air

above our hungry mouths


turning to steam, our hands

two hot twigs making smoke. Then


you kneeled frog-thighed above me

and scorched me with skin, cut my breath


in half. How we brimmed with want,

even before we knew what want was.


And, as cattle grazed grass

and teeth grazed lips,


we learned what want was—

in looking

and not looking at each other.


Despy Boutri’s writing has been published in Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Currently, she teaches at the University of Houston and serves as editor-in-chief of The West Review.


  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.