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You say, from the other room, as I

try to explain how I love you:

skin relinquishes itself to another skin

the confusion of a breath—its stop and start—

melting culpably in a mouth, when you ask

Do you know how to give a dog CPR?

There is nothing but soft intrusions

we welcome and inflict

like a natural litany of breaths.

Have you ever wanted to scuba dive?

as I am cutting peppers in the kitchen.

Something smells like blueberries,

while you try to make the bed.

I am so full I could burst.

Of course, I have more room.

Come in. Tell me, please, how

do you give CPR to a dog?


The couch croaks every time I shift my weight. It used to be white but has curdled to the color of dental plaque. There are frayed sunflowers embroidered on the fabric. Clumps of yellow and green thread hang limply, as though they’ve been unceremoniously disemboweled. The beer in my hand’s gone warms but I still sip from it, leaving a jab of sour yeast at the back of my throat. The lights are dim and the music sucks. As far as parties go in my town, this is one of the best we’ve had all year.

Carmine has just mentioned her father died 6 years ago. Fell through the ice on a lake while snow-camping with college friends. “They went up every year. Like an annual guys trip.” They’d been drinking, whiskey passed around in a coffee thermos, and started throwing a football. Her dad, she doesn’t mention his name [dead dads rarely have names], went long for a pass and broke through the ice.

“He drowned, then?” I say.

“Hypothermia. They pulled him out and put him in their car to crank the heat, but the engine wouldn’t turn over.”

“No one called for help?” Asks Olive, crumbs of weed and flecks of tobacco tumble from the edges of an open rolling paper perched and, for the moment, forgotten in her hand. Dead dads are magic like that. There’s always at least one at every party. They freeze time. They’ve been known to summon stupid questions from smart people.

“The campsite was pretty remote. I guess he was already pretty far gone when they got him out of the water. By the time emergency response could reach them he’d stopped breathing.”

The dead dad hovers in the air between us. The haze of the party condensing in our mouths. Carmine fidgets, lost in a memory, and cornered into this particular moment, simultaneously a spaceman floating without a tether and a bug encased in amber. The chatter around us doesn’t diminish in loudness but has still become harder to hear. Olive is holding the unwrapped spliff, its sticky green guts pulsing in the yellow light of the living room. I notice she is twisting and tugging the threads of the flower near her thigh.

“My dad’s dead too,” I say. From the other room, there is a thud and someone cackles. Olive returns to the careful process of fastening her spliff. Carmine jostles her head slightly and casts me a look that lay on some point between sympathy, recognition, and relief. She brushes a finger along the severely precise line of her bangs.

“Oh, you too?”

“Me too, yeah.”

“How’d yours die?”

“Car accident. He went over a cliff and landed in a river when I was 13.”

“Man, that’s a tough way to go.”

“I mean yours too. Freezing in a lake. Brutal.”

She raises her own bottle of warm beer. “To the brutal death of our fathers.”

“Cheers,” I say and clink mine to hers.

Olive raises the paper to her lips, and just before sealing it shut with her tongue says, “You guys are fucked up.”

“You’re just jealous,” I say.

“Point and laugh at Olive,” Carmine says, “her dad’s still alive.”

Just like that, the moment passes. Carmine’s dead dad neutralized by mine. Another small wave of grief in a seemingly endless tide passes beneath us and we are spared from its crash. The party continues. I ditch my warm beer for a cold one. I grab one for Carmine, too.


Jordan Ranft (he/him) is a writer living in NYC. His poetry has appeared in Rust + Moth, Bodega, and Bayou. Twitter: @JordanRanft.

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