November and the metallic whine of schoolyard
swings trawls me back to the confused daze
of childhood in which the only rules stricter

than my mother’s nuns were my own bylaws:
rules of affinity and avoidance; of keeping
things out or carefully held in; midday

recess a game of kickball with boys, if they’d
have me; coed tag; dodging Maeve’s acid
taunts like the salt baths taken for fever.

Always, some ill-timed birth. Some travel
between woman and water. On a swing,
I pedal-pushed at flawed sky, fugitive

birds, treetops drowsing in rough wind,
the steeple’s gong of hard noon. Always,
some search for harbor under aproned

tables, behind coat-racks, in dark closets rank
with the musky delicate ache of patent
leather. Borrowed afternoons I spend

with you evoke a root nostalgia. Purity of midair
fright, unschooling pleasure. In a sanguine
pocket of unfolded time, my legs stretch high

to reach around your head, pulling you closer,
as they hammered once at a pin-tucked sky
insisting it open up and carry me inside.

Heather Treseler’s poems and essays have appeared in Boston Review, Iowa Review, Pleiades, Southern Poetry Review, The Weekly Standard, Notre Dame Magazine, and Harvard Review, among other journals. She is an assistant professor at Worcester State University.
*Photo courtesy of Ishikawa Ken.
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