I Look At Everyone Like This

by Shauna Barbosa

If I say his name then I’d have to hear mine, how he says it, unintentional and mispronounced and from behind his gold frames, all eyes. I don’t notice he’s sweating until he tells me he’s sweating. Says he walked twenty-five minutes down undone hills from his hotel to mine, in a dry 97 degrees. I touch his temple for the truth. He is wet with wonder. It’s a tender crash. Like me hitting his car while in mine, so tender, no insurance needed. Except I get out and he asks for my insurance and I give him two hours of my time instead. Going on about not having insurance how this country where our cars touch is of the people who rear it. He looks at me for clarity, knows the only thing I’ve ever done on this land is hang dry outside like the rainbows of laundry I can’t stop taking photos of. I want to hang with him. I think he wants to hang with me too. Stretch me put whatever inside of me take whatever out. The marriage notice came after his nails renovated the roof of my mouth into a bruised sky. I sucked my own mouth dry for dinner where he asks me to speak to him in Kriolu. Not swallowing this language on my tongue is my only weapon against all man. If I were too much of one thing, I just might be one thing. If I tell him how I feel, he won’t feel it. I know no one’s coming to save me but my ears are stilled pressed against the door. I don’t want the last thing he writes to me to be the last thing he wrote to me; Here it is already midnight and a half and I go to bed with the joy of your message. Hug you tight. I enjoy our language disconnect because he treats me like confidential correspondence. Holding my hand under the table he asked if I look at everyone like this. Of course I don’t look at everyone like this. I want to work on him. I think he wants to work on me too. More soon. I’m back in my safe space. I take my mask off. I clap when I land.

Shauna Barbosa is the author of the poetry collection Cape Verdean Blues (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Common, AGNI, Iowa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Lit Hub, and others. She was nominated for PEN America’s 2019 Open Book Award and received her MFA from Bennington College.