Samantha Deal

Twenty Miles Offshore

I remember walking out into the field behind our house the winter after
I almost lost a leg to an unfortunate arrangement of old pine bark
and truck engine. The world is full of legs—I thought. I’ve never been sure

why hospital rooms keep cold the way they do—I think maybe
those machines were special vacuums designed to suck up
all the warm. I think maybe that’s what snow sounds like, a vacuum

cleaner clearing carpet in another room. That winter after was when I started
to play this game I called, how cold. It’s a one-person game—just you
in a field with the naked cotton air. There are so many edges

in the mountains, too many corners, places where one thing
becomes another. I hate the sound of ripping fabric. When I think
about childhood, I think about running—and then, for a long time,

not running. There are monks that sit on snowy mountains, wrapped
in soaking sheets. I used to believe I could lie on my back in a field
of snow for hours and never feel it. When I drove back

from college that first time, the blue ridge spilled over the dashboard
all at once—I’ll never forget it. An hour ago I wanted things
to be smaller. Now, I’m looking at water and thinking

about your calves. I’m afraid I’ll never understand
what sex is really about. What is enough? I think maybe
there is a drift in my head. Things float off all the time—

I know it because I watch them go. I don’t know
if this is what love ought to feel like, and I don’t know exactly what it is
you love, but I know that when you disappear into the rolling hills

of your ribs—I want to go with you. The world is full of legs
and arms and spleens. Who knows how many different ways there are
to be in pain. I think maybe you are what blurs the edges, I think maybe

you are the ripple where the big open gap-toothy sky piles
into the road. What if I had never learned to swim? I am full
of salt, the smell of chlorine. I am tired of talking only

to dead people. An hour ago, I imagined having a beer
with Laurence. Now, I’m telling him about the ocean
at night—Have you ever been out this far? I ask.

Sometimes I Want You to Throw Things

You are talking to me about waves, about the difference
between sets, about offshore winds and sinking tides—

                I want to collect your lazy freckles and pile them up like goose feather
                I want the grease stuck folds of your palms and your fingers
on my stomach like an almost-too-cold shower

There are things you cannot say to a person:

                You taste like toothpaste and floss and rainy weather
                I want to be your chewing gum
                I want to be the water-heavy air that fills the four feet

                between where I am and where you are
                Everyone’s beautiful is another person’s I-don’t-give-a-shit—I love you

I don’t understand what you mean about drift. Does it frighten you
when I talk about mountains, when I say that December is the only month that
tastes like December. Are you scared I’ll sink into my ditch of blue?

I’m thinking about the way you fall asleep on your back
without any covers—I wish I could do that. If I hate you
it’s because I’m jealous. If I’m not making sense

it’s because I want you to do it for me—
I want you to gather up all my syllables
and arrange them into a perfectly constructed paragraph.

I disagree with you about the phosphorescence.

                It is not the emission of light by bioluminescent plankton
                It is the millions of lightning bugs that somehow migrated

                into the ocean. They only just figured out how to glow
                underwater, they’ve been waiting on you for years

Samantha Deal grew up in Boone, North Carolina, and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a BA in comparative literature and a minor in creative writing. While at Chapel Hill, she received honors in creative writing. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming in: The Cellar Door, Cold Mountain Review, Inkwell, The Journal, and The North Carolina Literary Review, where she was a finalist for the 2012 James Applewhite Poetry Prize. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA in creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.