Skeleton Key

It’s there, in the alternating shadows beneath the trees
& your warm yellow raincoat

I see you again, walking around the mass of dead leaves,
watching as the banded rope snakes around its left foreleg.

When the dog is freed from the leash, he outstrips the line of oaks,
digging, then wallowing atop the rain-soaked & claw-ravaged earth,

his tail covered & wagging still –
A pendulum of mud & sprigs & leaves. He marks his scent among the moss and damp,

& I remember your pocketknife, that skeleton key,
after you stumbled & swore. We laughed, & you carving your name on that tree stump,

breaking its rings, marking time around your familiar lines & curves.
But I imagine showing you how the pressure of your hand has left an imprint of the word

against my trailing fingers, & not with a knife but with an old-fashioned pen,
tracing your likeness along my body where it bends, restoring its faded places –

& you patch the ripped yellow sleeve with a quilting square of Sunshine & Shadow,
the red hearth resting in the crook of your arm –

& inside the hearth is a raging tongue that once held my name. & you biting my lip, the
trembling heat. A Thursday with teeth.

Lauren Morgan currently teaches English Composition at a university in Tennessee. Her honors include the Lora A. Printz Memorial Poetry Prize, and her work can be found in The Iris Review and elsewhere. When not writing or editing articles as an editorial intern, she can be found listening to true crime podcasts, reading, or dancing in circles with her puppy Jace.

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