the 6th arrondissement, Abbaye de Saint-Germaine-des-Prés: 2003
Skin bears its salt, its fibrous scent like silver gelatin locks light. I call to mind a bed
where fingers laid. How the blazing morning bore down and yet we went out.
Corners of shade were crowded on the last afternoon of the Holocene. Every Rue exposed to sun was a hollow shell.
We saw the empty afternoon through wilting up and down the Seine, our hot hands latched. Other faces cut the water frowning
heaving, it was hard to inhale. A concierge collapsed. A waiter laid down with his clattering tray
white porcelain blasted handles crema pooled and one flying spoon wore the bridge on its back
then slid, all the way down. The river was no reprieve the old river, a river so seen, so warm.
Melting wires frayed trains’ pantographs and the city declared: cathedrals are thermalrefugia now.
No fees no rules. Doors the size of houses opened portals to the old earth showing cool wombs of dark.
We sat in the wooden chairs of Germaine-des-Prés setting our stuff softly down. The silence magnified my love’s whisper
sang his pencil’s mark. A scratch of chairs moving across the crypt vaulted through the painted canyon.
He would try to get the arches everywhere, for these are arcs of ancient oak, he said, describing perfect parabola.
Hold my hand, where has the world gone? Hold me up, the centuries sank my friend, this life, where will your skin go?
It’s just us and Christ at the Eleventh Station hovering on the wall in the holy dark, nothing but body story, and the light that carries it will remain.
Even when the sun was long down, heat had killed the day heat had crowned the first summer that burned like new summers
pas normal, he said. His mouth has a place, and his words, far down the middle of my own eternity forever, I am flung open.
I see the hour now. We dug up francs for one candle, we held the cold red glass between us a tiny seed of fire inside.
The walk back to his apartment was still hot, the bed still simmered. We begged for air
for remembering: winter, old summer, at least our smells, even a tongue.
MK Sturdevant's work appears in Orion, Newfound, Kestrel, X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, The Lily Poetry Review, The Great Lakes Review and elsewhere. She is a fiction reader for the Maine Review and was a finalist for the Montana Prize in Fiction 2019. She lives in the Midwest. Twitter @mksturdevant.