Honey Hollow

It’s been a week, or three—checking off tasks,
phone calls with my boss, conversations 
with my family about queer allyship or lack-there-of,
discussions with my partner about polyamory and autonomy— 
I’ll admit, there’s a continuous low hum
that vibrates beneath it all: the shape of you,
the way you press into me, mold me like butter. 

Let’s go back to Honey Hollow, bushwhack 
through patches of sensitive fern, 
swap ghost tales, flirt sideways 
as we crisscross down the steep, muddy bank. 
Let’s discover the river again together, 
gasp at the sight of the granite slabs 
rubbed smooth by the pounding water, 
marvel at the ribs and mounds
of blushing red quartz. We’ll kiss, there, 
and my feet will slip on the wet moss. 

Let me guide your hands 
along the routes of my desire—
you’ll stop just short of the places 
I want to be touched—your approach 
liquifies me; we fall together and apart 
in waves of movement; bring me closer. 

Your hands in my hair, pulling my strings 
like a puppet-master, this way and that; 
I’m yours to choreograph. Let me explore 
the contrast between the delicate line-work 
of tattoos crawling up your neck 
and the ridges of scar tissue along your ribs, 
my hands on your chest, reading the braille 
of your skin. I haven’t slept well since that day—
I’m distracted, replaying our dance like a film on loop. 
Release me from this erotic insomnia; 
take me back to the water, give me 
something tangible to break this spell. 

Wild orchids

For Eva and Emma

The spring brings yellow lady slipper orchids,
fleeting beauties, rare to discover in mud season.

These flowers make me think of the two of you—
the gaiety of their attire, costumed orchids scattered 
through the floodplain forest, their erotic poise, 
their jubilance and humor. I envision Eva’s pompadour,
finger-combed casually to one side; Emma’s perpetual smile.
I can almost feel my arms draped over each of your shoulders 
on the couch in your living room, all  the dogs curled 
like living pillows on our laps and at our feet.

The orchids say, “come closer, pay a visit, 
touch my lips, peer into my bowl.” They catch 
and hold the sun like dozens of miniature lanterns
dotting the green underbrush. These golden orbs 
have an animal quality—their mouths gape open to reveal 
stripes of red spots; each mouth features an upper lip, 
a round protuberance, clitoral and gleaming. 
Two magenta tendrils spiral out from either side 
of the floral orifice; red silk scarves twisting in the wind. 
One larger petal rises skyward from the center, a yawning tongue. 

I stare into the face of one lady slipper and recall our kiss 
shared three ways after a dance party in the Upper Valley,
all the way down in Bethel, Vermont; odd place for queers like us 
to congregate; we were all so desperate for touch 
after the long hibernation. Bounce and sweat,
bubbly pét-nat and an oyster platter, 
the caress of a velvet cheek in the dark, 
so many hands and mouths together in one bed. 

After the long winter shadows, this is all so fresh—
ephemeral blossoms, fiddleheads and ramps;
new morning glory sprouts pop up each time it rains; 
grass grows faster than the blade can catch. 
You are both new to me, too. I hope this lasts
longer than the season of the wild orchid. 

Déjà vu

We must have met before—

Perhaps I saw you somewhere a decade ago, 
that summer I spent in San Francisco, living 
with my uncles near the Castro. They often 
brought me along to bear bars and drag shows; 
I was their little tagalong niece, not related by blood,
but through literature, queerness, and happenstance. 

Once, the hairier uncle joined me on Wednesday night
at the Amnesia bar for beer and free jazz. We watched 
the Lindy Hoppers, and I shared a few dizzying spins
with handsome strangers, more my uncle’s type than mine. 

He asked, “Why don’t you ever go to the Last Call Bar,
on 18th street, that’s where the lesbians are. 
This place,” he paused to gesture around 
at the swing-dancers, “It’s too straight for you.” 
We left the cozy pub and he walked me to the corner 
of the Last Call, grinning like a father 
dropping his daughter off at her first school dance.

I entered, alone, watchful. The bar was tight 
and lit only by neon signs, peanuts on the floor, 
pool table as centerpiece, jukebox in the back. 
Didn’t I see you at the table by the window, waiting 
for your friend, perhaps, to order another round of drinks, 
or waiting for me? I didn’t stay long enough to find out. 

Or, maybe it was in New York. That summer I stayed in Manhattan
with my three friends who studied at the Art Students’ League. 
We took mushrooms in Central Park and tried to sketch
one another’s portraits, but Caleb’s face kept melting 
in my vision and my pen wouldn’t cooperate, so we climbed
trees and stared down at strangers on the park benches. 
when our brains sorted themselves out and objects 
began to re-align, the trio of artist friends ordered takeout 
and got into bed together, and I went to the MOMA. 

Colors and shapes still throbbed, and I found myself stuck
in front of a Giacometti drawing; his figures are already 
out of whack, limbs protruding and necks elongating 
in all directions. I turned my head from the sketch 
and saw you standing several paintings to my right—
at least I think it must have been you, though 
I didn’t know you then—you stood with your hands
in your pockets and your head tilted toward a Miró. 
Knowing what I know now, I wish I had approached you, 
asked your opinion, asked you out for a coffee, and more. 

Or, perhaps I met you at the flea market in Paris, “Les Puces,” 
when I lived in the apartment of my grandmother’s 
former student, on the fourth floor of a blue apartment
in the third arrondissement. I was so lonely that summer,
and I tried to walk it off all over the city, to leave my 
solitude behind on the cobblestones like mud or gum. 

I walked in so many circles around Les Puces
that I lost my sense of direction somewhere in the heart
of the market. Didn’t I see you there, holding an old silk
handkerchief up to your eyes, inspecting the embroidery?
Didn’t you look up then, and recognize me from somewhere
in your own past? Haven’t we played this game before?

About the author:

Frances Cannon is the Managing Director of Sundog Poetry, as well as a writer, artist, and instructor. She has previously taught at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Champlain College, the Vermont Commons School, and the University of Iowa. She has an MFA in creative writing from Iowa and a BA in poetry and printmaking from the University of Vermont. Her published books include: Walter Benjamin: Reimagined, MIT Press, The Highs and Lows of Shapeshift Ma and Big-Little Frank, Gold Wake Press, Tropicalia, Vagabond Press, Predator/Play, Ethel Press, Uranian Fruit, Honeybee Press, and Bitten by the Lantern Fly, forthcoming with Finishing Line Press. She has worked for The Iowa Review, McSweeney’s quarterly, The Believer, and The Lucky Peach. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Poetry Northwest, The Iowa Review, The Green Mountain Review, Vice, Lithub, The Moscow Times, The Examined Life Journal, Gastronomica, Electric Lit, Edible magazine, Mount Island, Fourth Genre, and Vol. 1 Brooklyn. 

Website: frankyfrancescannon.com

Instagram: @frankyfrancescannon

Twitter: @francesartist

Photo by John Wiesenfeld on Unsplash