June, Where Did You Put The Time? | Leia K. Bradley

June, It’s hard to tell you just because I wrote about you
doesn’t mean I love you—in fact, it might mean the opposite—
but I let you go on believing fate is red-handed, crimson-nailed and raking
down your back—but we won’t
mention time, won’t mention
how you arrive on my doorstep at 2 AM like clockwork,
double-fisting a bottle of Jack and a small Coca-Cola,
how my mouth is a cherry I drop into your burn
to sweeten the bite of you. June,
you twist the stems of me in your mouth,
a Celtic lover’s knot, maraschino for marriage; wrapped taut ‘round your finger,
I always let you upstairs, June. Even when
I have to drink heavy, gulp quick
to be able to swallow you down.
Tonight it’s 2 AM again and I drank only
in anticipation of your drunk. Tonight you hang me from the ceiling,
shibari chandelier,
kiss my elbows,
balm my ropeburn with your mouth.
I wonder when you’ll realize
I’m vacant-hearted,
fecund but foreclosed, June,
wonder when you’ll notice I’m marked uninhabitable, that you’re squatting
in a molding room
built to be demolished.
Maybe you do know
and just don’t have the time
to mind.

My frown deepens the slant and tilt of the floors. One day, June,
we could both fall
into the apartment below.
You’ve got vomit on your leather pants. You’re
barely standing, so I help you undress, wash
the acrid from your hair in the bath.
You can’t stand so we lay
on top of each other and swim like skin
could be a life raft.
Nausea is the knowledge that you won’t remember me
wrapping my arms tight around you like some sculpted pillar in Rome
while it burns itself down. Strong, palatial, June, you
could hold up the whole world, Atlas style,
hunched in hubris.
But your steel gaze and steel-toed boots fail to fool
the stagnant grief playing aubades in your middle. June,
I know you’ve lost things so dire you can’t bear
to hold them on your tongue
to flick their fleeting from your lips, to gulp down another loss
all over again. Memory’s gonna kill you, June,
but you’re sure giving it a leg up.

Arms behind my back, you kiss me and say I’m not allowed
to touch you, and I obey, let you
do your worst. Gaping from lack,
you fall on your knees minutes later
and kiss each of my thighs, your six-foot frame suddenly too small
to stare up, meet my gaze.
You can’t even fake it, June,
being in control. I can’t even fake it—
I love you like a garden, like planting only perennials.
Like knowing every brightest bl0om,
come cold, will die.

June, if your sorrow was a building, it’d be on a hundred acres of land.
Madness so deep it could build its own moat.
You keep sailing and swirling
into me, June, ceaseless as tide, as if moons and Manhattan
were enough to write a love story
that doesn’t end ten chapters too soon.
It’s hard not to notice
you don’t mind the lie of a future.
You want me to write your fate so badly,
but if I did I’d write me out of it—
you’d have a better chance at more chapters with someone
penless. Penniless I
don’t know why you think
your redemption bats my eyelashes. Seven dollars in my bra
and you know me, June, I’ll buy a book
before food. We laid in bed all winter and fed each other spoonfuls
of peanut butter, globs of
We could disappear and no one would even
come looking, come and look, it’s our love
in the shape of a spider’s web
in the ceiling corner. The capture and crawl, the hopeless sprawl—
I can’t wait to love you when your hair goes silver as that silk.
But I remind you, June:
You’ve got to want to get to greying.

Once, you laid your wine-dark waves on my typewriter
your curls tangling in the metal keys.
Once you wanted to be less dead, thought ink for blood
was a lover’s exchange. Binging on bartered bruises,
now we moan on stolen time. You don’t think we’re meant to live very long,
and I am porcelain with the terror
of starting to believe you.

Another night with you on my steps—
your ghosts playing in your eyes like pupils were palms, reading
futures, reaching into an abyss
and expecting velvet—
I am no chaise longue for your pretty parlor’d rest.
June, I am all pincushion,
jabbed and jutting, more needle-sharp,
I am a thing of discomfort, disquiet, and still
you choose my doorstep. You don’t remember how you got here, you never do,
but you remember the three trains and where to turn
to bang on my broken door.
I picture all the boroughs strung together by corset strings, subway lines
tightening in long black ribbon,
bringing you to me blackout
but safe, always repeating my name.
Your marble chest in a ripped shirt
spinning in your boots, beautiful as any of Saturn’s revolving moons.
June, you’re incandescent.
In the desolate decay of January’s insistent ivory sky,
it is just another grey almost-dawn
that I helped you up the stairs and into bed.
You thought it was yours, back home. You confused me for your mother.
I tuck the sheets around you like Moses
in a basket, safely down a river
of blue sheets,
and kiss your forehead,
and I bring a blanket to the couch. I tiptoe in
even though you’re out colder than vodka on ice in a chilled glass, and
put two fingers under your nose, June,
to make sure you’re still breathing
every few hours.
And when you’re gone in the morning
and back just shy of dawn, gin and vomit on your breath,
I’ll let you up again.
Your fleeting heaven, my only moon—
I’m a Valentine past my February
but you are always June.

Leia K. Bradley (they/she) is a backwoods Georgia born, Brooklyn based lesbian writer and performance artist, editor at Moot Point Magazine, and an MFA Poetry candi- date at Columbia University, where she also was awarded the Undergraduate Writing Teaching Fellowship for 2023- 24. She has work in Poetry Project, Aurore, Wrongdoing Magazine, Ghost City Press, Tarot Literary, Versifica- tion, and more, with her poem “Settle(d)” chosen as the Editor’s Choice Best Overall pick for Penumbra Magazine’s 2022 Pride issue. She can be found dancing through can- dlelit speakeasies or climbing barefoot up a magnolia tree with a tattered copy of Stone Butch Blues tucked into her dress. After climbing out from the coffin of her first divorce, she is accepting love and lust letters through her twitter @LeiaKBradley.

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