Swing Set | Sophie Gullett

Image: Autumn Bradley

Swing Set

I. Yellow

Ten little fingers clutch like honey in my hair and pull at freckles
golden as the mustard seeds that loiter in the brine
she pours into her cup. Each little burst her lips pucker
like a slit accepting a pearly button.

A slash of sun on the sidewalk
baking the dandelion chalk outline and hollowed out footprints
where I had held my feet still
carving a name, a year.
Under her nails the same neon color
the same sweetly acidic smell.

On my neck her breath is sticky, heavy with vinegar
and sugar and spit. The crease of her jeans, grass dyed and gaping
reveal knees prickled with little ghost pins
that someone will have to teach her how to shave.

Smaller but the same shape, her hands wrap around chains
with a yolky rubber coat. Her Barbie sneakers
tied with two fraying bunny ears
pump up dirt at her back and she moves
back and forth.

I cannot care for her.

II. Green

Salty whisps rest on her temple, turning dark as she floats.
She is whiter and cooler in places she presses
otherwise blushing red bubbling.
Lids flip up, marshmallow green
swimming through frog eye salad.
She whines that the water is too hot for her
and someone will need to adjust the tap.

There is not enough space for both of us.
Sideways brings a surge, her hand at my face
pushing my eyelids down and in.
Her hands catch on mine like her Pikachu kite
trembling between tree branches. Winter at our necks
she pulls, snagging leaves, hair.

At our feet, the drain is shrinking green brown silver.
Her toes dipped blue
pale as she pushes, pink as she curls back.
A gurgling suck, then swaying silence.
She untangles, flatter but not by much
leaving fuzzy outlines on the fraying mat.
Pages nest facedown
peppered with sweating hollows like her neck’s center.
She wants me to read it to her
as if we don’t both know it by heart.
Without the blanket of steam legs are static,
arms slick and bumpy. Bone cradles bone
both grow colder in the damp quiet.

I cannot care for her.

III. Red

On her lap, a shiny overgrown beetle
balanced between chin and thigh, wobbling as her ankle rotates.
Our feet crisscrossed red and pale
cracked open lobsters in the grass, glistening with butter.

A sidewalk sloping upward boasts spray paint stickers
words she knows but doesn’t yet dare to say,
but will need to be told to stop saying.
A lowercase z, her body hunkers over the wall
cement oozing between brick, dirt oozing between toes.

We squint, searching for the rusty crawdads
clawed into a kelpy ponytail like her hands
weaving my own into river currents.
Like a hawk above a burrow
she sights glistening red and follows,
helmet at her hip.

She runs along the ditch, growing smaller.
Someone will measure her height
in gentle pencil marks on a closet door.
Her hair is long, before she took her scissors to it
and sprinkled it over the red stone patio for nests,
feeling like Laura Ingalls. I bury my face in the grass
sharp against my nose and eyes.

I will not care for her.

Sophie Gullett (she/they) currently lives in Denver, CO where she works as an educational researcher and amateur sewist. She has previously been published in The Broken City, The Raw Art Review, and Colorado’s Best Emerging Poets.

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