What half-life moves in me
that cannot live without you?

What half-grown thing,
arrested embryo,
needs yes from you for food?

Our touching calls up new
a squirming fool
a child found foaming
in a hot clear stream;
a story fumbling with its mouth;
a nictitating eye, half human.

New form
just born
needs both of us.
Exhales what we, half-hearted,
do not have alone.
What we will need
to last beyond the week,
the century.

These hard times for the heart
need something new.
You give it life in me.
I give it life in you.


On the rise,
light edges you, it’s 6 a.m.
The morning has you,
even naked.
You strike a match
and smoke before you speak.
Your body, gone to work
with waking, will forget me.
The day is what you want:
condensed ambition.
Even in your last dream
as the sky went blue,
your mouth lay open
and your fingers tangled,
typing words.


I stand with my ear
to a glass
to the wall
and hear you living there.

In there you’re taller
than you are;
a face I haven’t seen
is under yours.
The light is unfamiliar
in your room
and carries sound.

Your treasures buried there
are gold and cold.
How much goes on
that makes you cry?

You leave your shirts with me.
I smell them, hang them,
let them hang with mine.
But in that other room
you keep your tenderness
and tend it for yourself.


I answer your rifle
and bring you down,
We bleed quiet, looking.

At dusk
the leaves above
are barely moving.
Injured so,
we are not strangers now.
If no one finds us
we will stay here till we mend,
shifting and moaning,
trading words.

The prospect makes you
raise your chin
your eyelids close and part and
close and part.
It’s darker. Summer.
Tolerably warm.


Death Valley
Days and nights
are layers in us,
dull till we’re
thrust up by time,
tipped over.

Then come colors,
red and yellow iron salts,
mica green
and purple manganese.
A beauty, history,
spilled out.
A cut across the heart.
Salt poured like
crystaled tears.
Time torn for good now,
lava stain, black blood
and fallen shale.
Along the fault is truth
and trust cracked open too.


Pit nothing
against it.
It is invincible.
It, his mask,
as liquid fire,
is nothing new
or old,
but simply his,
like breath, like
Don’t touch,
brush near.
Don’t kiss.


I held you in a camp
close to the dark.
Dead light leaked across
the mountains
while the world rolled east.
The freezing ground gave up a
scent and small twigs
cracked around us
as the wilderness heaved slightly
on all sides.

I nestled near you, knowing
I was putting one day safe into my pocket.
Knowing you’d undo your ropes
no matter how I tied them.

Sometimes I hear you breathing still.
That cold blue night will never end.


Linda Frye Burnham, 1981

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