Sometimes she did not know what she feared, what she desired. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Dandelion stems are braided into my hair, here. I am naked on a chaise of moss near a creek. The fawn beside me gnaws her spotted coat into place—no, I am dressed in cornhusk and flax silk in a leaf-littered field, overlooked by a bridge where steam engines rumble, hauling tons of smudged stones, casting shadows and gravel over the air above my exposed body.
I am reading and rereading Anna Karenina. The grass prickles. Its ticks and weevils kiss my feet and fete my wrists. I turn the page.
A distant engine remains distant until I feel its aim. I am here, alone in this field, until her body arrives next to mine. Her petticoats slow the descent in the way air cradles a sheet of paper to the floor. Anna Karenina undresses down to her parchment skin.
Anna opens a book to the chapter in which Kait Burrier is sitting inside a screened-in porch.
Kait looks out over one-hundred acres of farmland, then at her phone, combing through phrases: tick and bite, chance and survival, risk and protect. She finds a pair of page-white socks and sprays repellant from sole to knee.
A clumsy ladybug thwacks into the locked door. She bristles. Again: knee to sole.
A train approaches. Anna lets it blow open a new chapter.
Kait backs up from the platform’s yellow ledge. She tenses at the click of a track, the sight of lights in a tunnel. A tender thunder calls throughout the station, cautioning. Or is it an invitation?
Anna and I strip the blanched tongues of daisies down to their golden nipples and toss aside loves-me-nots.
We save the good petals for each other.
I dress her in loves-mes.
Anna licks a finger, turns a page.
Kait’s young thumbs polish a bouquet of pressed pennies that her mother harvested from train tracks as a kid. Kait quiets the stretched faces of dead men on the coins. Her mother whispers: make a wish.
Anna reaches for a flower from the patch that has sprouted next to my rosy thigh. She does not check its petals for insects. Anna tucks the plucked body into the binding of my story. A frond is caught on the raised ink of the words train and track. She closes the book. Her eyelids relax.
She does not tell me the ending. We do not search each other for poppy-seed black, burrowing freckles, for white larval interlopers, for thick, brown buttons that bury and plant disease in the meadows of flesh. A train approaches. We do not flinch.
Kait Burrier writes poetry, reviews and to-do lists. She curated and hosted Union Square Slam, wrote as artist in residence at Lemons Brook Farm, and holds a M.F.A. from Wilkes University, where she received the 2013 Wilkes-Etruscan Press prize. You can find her poetry online and in print.