Summer Blues

All summer long, I filled bowl after bowl with blueberries,
dreamed of running off through tall fields of sugar cane.
My body bloomed once that year, a bright pink azalea born
of the spring, singed by the Louisiana summer that welts
even the softest kiss, sweats out desire like flood water.
I laid back on the hot earth, a bed of flowers under my figure
or was it the dog’s red blanket fresh from the dryer?
I burned in the backyard and at the public pool, the lenses
on my sunglasses as dark as Medea’s heart, if she had one.
Dark and round so no one could see in, see me, but
still I squinted my eyes to the sun, tight as raisins.
That summer, I ate blueberries in bulk, buoyed
each bowlful on my ceramic chest, which floated
boat-to-ocean on the tide of my breath, a water-logged
copy of Play It as It Lays by my side. I considered each berry,
pressed each to my lips, rolled each like a lonely planet
between my fingers. I longed to feel my breasts, my back
in a bath of berries, to drown, to rot in sweetness.
I dreamed of buying a bushel of my own. That summer
I didn’t know Wednesday from the weekend,
each day a different shade of the same strange color.
I prayed to God, thankful for abundance. I prayed to God
that he would take it all away. I learned that such prayers
were decadent, wicked, so I prayed again for forgiveness.
That Joan Didion summer asked me to pit myself
in exchange for passion, and I did so willingly, willingly.
I traced the route to Albuquerque in coral lipstick, which
on the map looked like the curve of an unsure smile.
I cried when I didn’t leave, threw each Kleenex,
each origami wad of despair to the blue paper sky.
I kept my sunglasses tight on the bridge of my nose
like my mother taught me to hide the tears, the circles.
I burned, palms to the sun. I ate on, prayed on.
I ate the thick, sweet berries and said ready.
I ate the small, bitter berries and said not right.
When my hand reached for more and came back full,
my mouth could only mutter: empty, empty, empty.

Christie Collins
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