When the black berries die on the vine I go looking for you. When the trees drop their leaves and the sky’s held breath is grey, I hunt the rafters. I find your homes, those many-roomed apartments, now quiet as the sky, marshaled together in their own little neighborhoods—empty. It is easy to pull you from the eaves, to edge my fingers between wood and fiber and undo the hot work of summer—the work of months and days gone in the paper-thin snap of filament leaving wood—easy to push my fingers into the soft pile of bodies curled on the back of each nest: a secret.
You sleep like children behind paper walls, sharp bodies curved soft. I can move you with the tip of a finger, lift your violent bodies with the arc of a nail, the exhale of a breath.
Here is a memory: how once in summer I braced myself steady, held my hot hand to the catacombs of your home, felt the buzz and whir of your bodies against my skin, the urgent rage of your existence. How I held my breath almost. Almost long enough to feel the burn of your sharp secrets. The sun shifted. I snatched my hand away.
Now you lie soft, dormant—your secrets bartered to the warmth and the sun. I have bided my time, sat sentinel through the loud heat of summer, made myself ready. I have watched you build your homes, room-by-room, clever hexagons marching out one-by-one, laying siege to the nook beneath the eaves as the black berries grew purple, then black, then riotous. I have held your small bodies in my hands.
Here are the two parts of love: the sentry and the harvest. The watch held in fierce adoration. The covetous yearning. Then finally the having, which undoes it all. Something that steals the nests from the rafters. I hold your bodies silent in the palm of my hand. Think about letting go.
Jessie Ulmer is a queer writer and editor with a fondness for magic. She loves ghosts and anything wild and eerie, often using elements of the unreal to heighten themes of representation within her work. She is delighted to edit for Sword & Kettle Press, and has been published in Syntax & Salt, Gingerbread House, 3Elements Review, Pins and Needles: A Journal of Contemporary Fairy Tales, The Yellow Chair Review, and Washington’s Best Emerging Poets anthology. In 2019 she was nominated for a Best of the Net Award. She can be found at @JessieSwanUlmer.