It was love
that led us into the field. In my hand,
your hand; on my throat, my hair, that rush
of breeze, mid-August light. When touched,
your hair rose like grasses, each gold strand.
Love, you told me,
like a fact, or an order—brushed
your lips against my ear to say it, back before the rest began
(your hand on my throat, my hair). We rushed
to take some part of each other, something we could keep—it was never enough,
but more than we could stand.
You told me it was love
that turned in you like dark weather, broke you open, made you shove
my face against the wall. But (your hand
on my throat, my hair, that crush
of your body into mine) it was me who returned each summer
to lie beneath you in the field, boy, sweet boy, then man.
To survive it, like you
I told myself it was love:
your hand on my throat, my hair, that rush—
Leila Chatti, a Tunisian-American poet, is the author of Deluge (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), which won both the Levis Reading Prize and the Luschei Prize for African Poetry and was longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. Her poems have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, The Atlantic, AGNI, Poetry, and elsewhere. The recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, she has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She is a Provost Fellow at the University of Cincinnati and teaches in Pacific University’s MFA program. (updated 10/2023)