Badlands

 

You’re tempted to find God in every abandoned landscape:
twist of black road snaking through dry grass, shroud

of white hotel cotton, blank heaven that cannot conjure
cloud. Your blood chased his fingerprints for mile

after unmapped mile: suprasternal notch, scapula,
Devil’s Tower. His every absent touch finds you

because you extend the subtle invitation of proximity,
the path well-worn though unclaimed. You’ll soon learn

that a dark plum ripens in the belly of another, awaiting rites
of spring. His hands tell you nothing. He wears a necklace

made of teeth. You think you’re the first to die here? Look up:
another moon. Don’t mistake the wolves’ cry for a sign.

 

The Lakehouse

 

The air was always damp there, no matter the season,
the mattress hard and hollow beneath our backs.
The walls, once blue, greyed to some tone between fog
and melancholy, coated with the dust of a generation or two.
Tongue and groove. Portraits in sepia tacked to the edge
of a mirror. Cotton-covered pillows thin beneath our faces.
Sand ground between our souls. In that room you now love her.
My memory vague as a dream. One of you is on your knees.

The lake is not a lake. A reservoir, dammed and deep
just two steps in. In the boat we circled the perimeter,
going nowhere. You showed me where you jumped,
never quite suicidal, just stupid, and lived. You’ve lost
count of the summer girls who know the story. Rooted
to the shoreline at dusk, I watched your body fade
in and out of the water, moving always toward some other
horizon. I later learn she has a daughter, and a name.

No matter. The bust of a deer held steady watch over
the kitchen where heat and grease clung to the pine, the wild
of my hair. Two little upturned hooves damned to cradle
a shotgun above your mother. Another box of wine. With a dull
knife I chopped vegetables for my last meal in that place.
You were still in the water. The sun set into blackness
and rose into another version of your life, where you hold
someone else’s daughter as if she were your own, playing

the role of father, her mother devoted to the role of wife. Your dog
instead of mine runs up and down the shoreline, biting at waves.
I can tell you only this: the world wants everything smoothed.
You believe you’re a better man in your favorite godforsaken place,
seeking a blessing in stagnant water. Stroke and breath. Rise
and fall and fall. Something always pulls you under, scaled
and gilled. I knew it when I didn’t. So what if her face is the last
thing you see. So what if it wasn’t supposed to be mine.


 

Jennifer Molnar is the author of the chapbook Occam’s Razor, and her work is forthcoming or has appeared in Hawai’i Review, Salt Hill, The Ledge, and others. She currently resides in New York.