she was desperate

and he was warm

she smelled like woven bamboo, washed cotton and blade oil

he tasted like sweat, coffee and stubble

 

in fogwell’s gym he danced around her

like a hummingbird

just out of her reach

in fogwell’s gym she went after him

like a feline — elegantly

 

she blooms like a lotus blossom

and he has the pleasure of watching it — of feeling it, feeling her

and she has the pleasure of not having to prove herself

of sparring someone who is her equal

braid stuck to the nape of her neck

his legs melting into the mat

she says

if you told me i could fly

i might just believe you

 

she hovers over the threshold to his bedroom a week later

hand in her pocket

thumbing the braille on his business cards

the way she thumbs his dimples

 

and when he tilts his head to kiss her

she tastes like new york city rain

and he kisses her in the same way that he welcomes the rain

with violent relief and a half-finished prayer
she can’t find her grip amongst the silk sheets until the length of her spine sticks to them and won’t let go
he maps out the shape of her with his fingertips, savouring her until she cries out in frustration

 

condensation on the windowsill,

made from a collection of breaths

she watches it drip

 

while she slides back into herself
the tender parts of her made tender to the touch

tender-touch, tender-walk, tender-talk
he asks her if she’s okay

and she says

 

again

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Dogs You Don’t Know

“Hey, what are you up to out here all on your lonesome, huh?”

He crouches down, closer to the dirt and the dust and waits. There’s dirt under his fingernails, and his boots started off an ochre colour and now they’re black. He hasn’t shaved in a few weeks, and he favours one arm over the other, but there’s no mistaking him.

There’s no mistaking eyes that dark.

The dog moves towards him, body posture relaxed, sleek, lean.

You shouldn’t pet dogs you don’t know, or so the old mantra goes. But he did know dogs. He’d grown up around them. On a farm, if you can believe that.

 

“Hello,” he says, trying a smile through his gristle. “My name’s Frank Castle. What’s yours?”

The dog, ears forward, tail wagging, moves forward close enough to close the gap between them and lick his face.

“Ah so it’s like that, is it?” The former marine says, sinking his hands into the creature’s fur. He has no collar, no tag, not from where Frank’s standing.

“C’mon, you gonna show me round or what?” he stands, wipes the dust from himself and starts walking again.

It’s twilight, and the last of the sun is shining through the stark, brittle trees.

The sky is the colour of honey.

 

When Frank whistles the dog comes quickly, neatly by his side. He’s sleek, and lean, a German Shepherd, and he looks like he could run for days.

So they do.