Size / / /

It's August and rain makes the air fresh

as it dances on our roof. It's my first time in love.

He strokes my hair and praises its color.

He says to call him Jack because my pronunciation of his real name bruises

his ears. He traces my veins with one finger to follow the blood

in all of its travels until it returns home,

to the heart, which he says also symbolizes love on his home

world, which he promises I'll find intriguing, welcoming, fresh.

Jack says it's all lies, this business about them drinking blood

from the spines of their own children. He says he loves

me like I was his own wife, and it bruises

his heart that we can't marry. Society is color-

coded, but my eyes, he says, are like oceans, glaciers, the color

of the auroras that arc over his childhood home,

and when I cry, how dark they turn, like bruises

on the night sky. Whenever he gets fresh

the sun blossoms in my chest. He loves

the way my nails crunching into the scales on his back don't draw blood

and he loves sucking my fingertips to clean away the blood

his scales drew. Jack says human blood is the color

of the cliffs here, of fire and the sun, and therefore of love.

This is the rainy season, and we're stuck at home

most days, beneath this high white ceiling. The air is fresh

and so is our love and my bruises.

After he hits me, he cries and tends the bruises.

I'm so soft, it takes so little to draw blood,

and he says he loves that my skin is so fresh,

like a newborn's, and the color

of overripe peaches, not like those bitter women at home,

blood sluggish and green, covered in scales, too hard to love.

I am so easy to love,

Jack says. He says, and I think he's onto something, that the bruises

are my gift to our new home.

Rain falls outside as I sing in the shower and the blood

spirals down the drain, consecrating us, the color

of rust, leaving me new for him again, blank canvas, fresh.

His hands leave bruises down my spine that change color

the longer he loves me. He says my blood

tastes like fresh salt, exactly like the water back home.




Joanne Merriam lives in Nashville with her husband, three rabbits, and a reproduction sword. Her fiction has appeared in Escape Pod, Brain Harvest, and previously in Strange Horizons. You can find her at joannemerriam.com.
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