From sixteen to twenty-one,
I grew in and out of mitral valve prolapse,
acquired the new slant to my spine,
ate little else but yogurt, boiled peanuts,
and met you,
who studied beetles,
migration patterns, and
This American Life played on your radio.
You cut Adderall—later Percocet—
with the Damascus knife
your grandfather gave you,
uniting steel and nickel,
acid-soaked and snowed in white.
You asked the cashier
at the Marathon gas station
outside Gatlinburg for their pronouns.
You were my good man.
But when we got home you pulled
at the swath of my hair
stitched together with
dry shampoo and slammed
my temple onto the quartz countertop.
A soft scoop of skin next to
the peonies your mother gave me,
stems shoved in the vase
of muddy water.
At Christmas, my mother points to a new smudge,
my blood on the decorative molding in the dining room.
This spring, all fur and petal and clay,
with its earthworm crawl,
I will unlock one window
But for now, I lick my thumb,
milk-wet, and dissolve it.
SUZANNE GROVE is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and received the J. Stanton Carson Grant for Excellence in Writing while studying professional writing at Robert Morris University. She has published a variety of travel writing pieces, contributed an essay to Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader (Bedford/St. Martin’s), and has poetry appearing or forthcoming in The Penn Review and Rust + Moth. She recently entered her second term serving as a reader for CRAFT literary magazine and finds joy in helping others to publish their work.