4.09 / September 2009

Notes on a Candy Cane Tree

What did I think about before you touched my thigh? Let me say this: I’m going to touch you until my fingers fall off. If my fingers don’t fall off, I will hold your hand even if it’s sweaty. And let me say this: You are lovelier than clouds that look like lovely things. I have only loved a few times and the last time was when you rubbed my neck under the monkey bars. We weren’t much younger than we are now. I still have the same haircut. You still have only one dimple. It’s on your left cheek and it looks like you fell on a pebble. I love that it looks like you fell on a pebble. Let me say this: You taste like candy canes. There was a candy cane tree in my old neighborhood. My neighbor hung candy canes on the branches of the willow and I snatched them in the middle of the night. It was December when I rode my bike the quickest, like I was going somewhere to meet you. I like you more than the candy cane tree. Let me say this: I am uncomfortable in my own skin, so I hold your face. I hold your face and your hips but mostly your face. You have a lovely face. Let me say this: I love you like monsters like scaring little kids. I make a list of words I can use to diagram your body: petite, mellifluous, comely, milk, necessary. Please, forgive the humming; you see I rarely taste candy canes in March. When I don’t taste you I taste sweat. Not good sweat, mind you, sweaty sweat from the men’s locker room. Sometimes I taste pizza, but that’s only because I loved pizza first. Let me say this: My love for pizza was fleeting. I was young and naive and thought that extra toppings meant something. These are fine days because they end with you. Let me just say this: I’m going to kiss you until my lips fall off. If my lips don’t fall off, I will kiss up your spine until I run out of spine. Then I’ll start over.


I go to Tampa because the meds stopped working. It’s not what you think—it’s probably much worse. I go to Tampa to sit on mall benches. I go to Tampa and I finger the fifth pocket of my jeans and that’s where my lighter would be but there’s no lighter so my finger just sticks in halfway. I go to Tampa and I can’t find her even though she lives in Tampa and that’s the only reason I’m in Tampa. I go to Tampa and I want to punch myself in the face for going to Tampa. I sweat through my cardigan because it’s hot in Tampa and I’m the only person wearing a cardigan. I go to Tampa because I heard she ran into an old boyfriend. I don’t know if she fell in love with him or if she checked his medicine cabinet and saw that he didn’t have to take a pill to feel okay and thought that was enough, but within a year she was engaged. I go to Tampa and order a Cinnabun. The Cinnabun is too big. I go to Tampa and I don’t finish a Cinnabun. I go to Tampa because the last thing she said was not even if your mother dies. I go to Tampa because my mother did not die. I go to Tampa because my father still puts his hand in my mother’s back pocket. I go to Tampa from Virginia and by the time I get there my face itches. I go to Tampa and I call my friends and they say you’re crazy and I nod my head but they can’t hear me nod my head through the telephone.

Gregory Sherl is the author of HEAVY PETTING (YesYes Books, 2011) and THE OREGON TRAIL IS THE OREGON TRAIL (Mud Luscious Press, 2012). This piece is part of his collection MONOGAMY SONGS, which will be released by Future Tense Books in the summer of 2012. He blogs/interviews/reviews at http://gregorysherlisgregorysherl.com/.