Charleston Shuffle

I lost my keys in the river and lost 

the river too. This is the problem 

I have with new cities: I know them less 

than they want to be known, a geography of shadows 

I still need Google Maps to translate. Truth is 

I’ve been here before: another summer, another pair 

of yellow-eyed boys who tucked secrets 

in their pockets like lights they didn’t want

to hold you awake with. After diving in downtown fountains, 

we wore our wet clothes for hours 

like soaking in chlorine was what would finally

make us clean. Surely there were other visits, too, brief 

and mis-lived, but there was something I meant to tell you 

about the river: at night, watching its currents turn 

like a tangle of snakes who can’t find a way 

to let go of each other, you could sometimes see the mouth 

of another galaxy opening and closing, there, 

between the buoys, where everything is sacred 

and nothing is lost. A local boy told me 

there’s a name for the way people walk in this city 

when they don’t belong here, or when 

they’re learning to. Any given dislodged brick 

could turn any given bridesmaid placeless, her body 

a marionette suspended in time only 

Charleston was her strings and the person pulling them, 

the stage and the humidity she hung in. I thought of this 

as I watched the river, its dark a tongue uncurling 

from one of those gaping mouths, how easy it would have been 

to step into it, to hang my weight delicate 

above the wavering surface, and easier still 

to misstep, to fall and to be lost to the tossing 

of another city’s intestine, another galaxy’s abyss where 

gravity weighs less on the drenched clothing of divers

and the boys don’t mind 

how you fall.

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