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Flea Circus

The summer you died I kept sleeping

on that sunbonnet quilt, legs stretched

on blue squares stitched by hands

with the same line maps as my own.

For weeks that room held me looking

at how light displaces itself in the early

morning before the house wakes its ghosts

with the smell of cheap espresso, how a

dresser sits in dust for years then one day

becomes a place for us to set the moving

on—a place for all our unloved, unessential

toiletries. But there are things I need to tell

you, Alice. I need to tell you how, when you

died, you still gave me fleas. How my skin

reddened and hollowed and I scratched

so hard I made myself bleed, how the doctor

said rash, how my mother said parasite,

how I said love, how I watched people swim

drunk at the lake, bodies hovering like moons

against licorice sky, how I scaled the fallen

tree like a tightrope, how I learned our love

has two mouths: one that draws blood

and one that drinks it.

Jesse Ewing-Frable studied Creative Writing at Western Washington University. Last June she co-founded Sweet Tree Review. Her fears are common—stair stepper machines, loving to fill a vacancy, and spontaneous renditions of “Happy Birthday.” She lives in Portland, Oregon.