#3 Hiking in Hyde Park After the Fire Ban is Lifted by Carolyne Whelan

We walk, hands heavy, barely breathing despite
these deep huffs I make behind you.

I am working to suck you from my chambers.

Dear friend, seven years is too long for merely hello
at a Greyhound station, a walk to the tracks outside a bar
en route to some catalyst. I loved you enough
for the both of us, and you, it turns out, loved me
the way you love the desert. You can’t leave it
so in an act of kindness, you let me go, a genuine

consideration. Marriage material you said once
when I slid up close to you and you pulled back,
our hands still holding, all of Albuquerque
shining bright from the highway. If you could
leave this arid place you would and if
you could have opened me
like a wound seven years ago, I would have
let that scab form into a scar of you.
All we have now is a six-pack of Santa Fe,
sunburnt toes trying to hike your dusty imprint
from the soles of my sandals. I know,
you just can’t leave. Your dog runs ahead,
and back to us and ahead again. The thing I love
about dogs is that they are aggressive in their moments,
their want. The way they lean in hard
against the challenge of my embrace.

All we have now is a cot and a Conan movie,
a rearranging of my sentences into something that won’t
disalign me, blow apart this nest I’ve taken seven years
to build in less arid climates. What we have now is a husband,
a girlfriend and these deep full breaths. These cliffs.
Your hair is shorter. Mine has grown in.
We’re getting older and still wear each other’s old clothes,
the rips only getting bigger with time.

Carolyne Whelan received her MFA in poetry and nonfiction at Chatham University in 2009. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bicycle Times, Willows Wept Review, and Qarrtsiluni. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA as a part-time legal secretary and writing instructor at the Community College of Allegheny County.

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