Kelly McQuain grew up surrounded by West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest. His poems have been featured on National Public Radio and in such journals as The Pinch, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mead, Paper Nautilus, Assaracus, Bloom and Kin. Recently Stone Highway Review nominated his poem “Annabelle” for a Pushcart Prize. His prose has appeared in Icarus, Kansas Quarterly/Arkansas Review, The Harrington Gay Men’s Fiction Quarterly and over a dozen anthologies including Skin & Ink, Rebel Yell, Men on Men and Best American Erotica. He writes columns on city life for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Learn more at www.KellyMcQuain.wordpress.com
Strawberries, Limoncello, Water Ice, Passing Time
You bring home Italian Market strawberries
so ripe they’ll be ruined if we don’t eat them today.
So after dinner I wash, core and halve them
as you water plants off the deck, the last of the sunlight
purpling the sky. I drop the strawberries into a bowl
over lemon water ice, add a shot of limoncello from a bottle
given us last Christmas, carry the bowl and two spoons
up to our bedroom, trying not to dig in before you join me
for a movie. But I can’t; it’s too good, so sugary, so cold,
while the day’s been so hot we ate dinner without shirts.
I can taste fresh lemon peel in the homemade limoncello
as if Christmas were yesterday, not half a year ago.
I pluck a strawberry from the bowl and study it close
as the water shuts off and you curl away the hose.
Such scarlet skin, so many tiny seeds, every one a wonder.
My fingers redden with juice, become sticky-sweet with water ice.
When you come in I pop the strawberry in my mouth
like a guilty child as I think of a sunburn long ago,
how you rubbed my skin aloe-cool, and then
rubbed me again, stirring blood, ripening stamen
until I seeded red skin and took safety in the false comfort
this world made time enough for everything.
Our bed creaks as you crawl in. You fluff your pillow;
I spoon you water ice and a strawberry half,
the white V within the red, this moment a quiet victory.
A drip hits my chest and you tongue it away.
What flavor is inside ourselves?
Sweetness, surely, the way you lap at my heart—
like strawberries, limoncello, water ice, passing time.