July was never hot, but across the alley the Section 8 locust trees have long since let go of their golden scales. Always, you tell me you've dreamt I've left you. I listen to it like I listen to the neighbor scream at her daughter, Miracle, the wind wheeze through the sills, and the recurring dream in which you're missing credits and are forced to return, ten years later, to college. Uh-huh. Hm. Well, at least it isn't true! I like your hot-pink tights, especially with a black skirt. You close the bedroom door and lift your shirt like a thug flashing his waistbanded handgun. I like your laugh when it's divined from deep in you, and how, like two surfaces of water we reverberate with the same sound, and maybe those seconds are the closest we'll come to being one. Around our apartment sit boxes of stuff we haven't opened, things we don't care for but would feel terrible if we didn't have. We hear bangs outside, and when a girl shrieks, we know what they are not: cars misfiring, a nail gun, late bottle rockets or firecrackers. We know we are safe, sometimes sickeningly so. With my shirt tucked and belt cinched so obsessively, you tell me I look nice, my carmine tie wagging as I again return out the door to work's call. In the evening, my wrinkled shirttail hangs over my slacks by the time that I kiss you. You stand, in the dream, on the upper-level railing of a shopping mall. I watch your blue bikini lift over the crease of your ass, pleased, until you bend your knees and clasp your hands, set to dive into the fountain. The time between clicking buy on the clothing site and when the box arrives—the twelve-year-old moving from her fishing village to Kuala Lumpur, the factory where she sewed the seams in your jeans and the freighter where they were stowed, the young mother from Minooka who taped the box's flaps—maybe that is the marriage, the unseen scaffolds bridging choice and happiness. Don't ask me. One of us could want to kill ourselves, and the other wouldn't even know. I never tell you, but I dream that you leave me. At least it's sunny outside! A drug dealer breaks from the gangway, holding a bill to the light.
-- A 2019 finalist for the National Poetry Series, Kyle Churney’s poetry has appeared in publications including Salt Hill, The Journal, Memorious, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, chosen by guest editor Roger Reeves. His essays are published in the Chicago Tribune. He is the recipient of a Literary Award from the Illinois Arts Council and a fellowship from the MacDowell Colony. A native of rural Illinois, Churney lives in Chicago, where he teaches at a community college.