by Mary Stone Dockery
Do you have a thing for red heads? she asks, after she has you kiss her in the car, after she tells you the kiss was good, and it is now you realize the flash of red behind you, the hair strands left on your pillow case. The backs of heads were petals bursting out in ruby, glistening in the wine-glow of your bedroom light. Bourbon wrung wisps in your nostrils, against your shoulder. The bourgeoning fibers spill across your past. Her hair, caramel red and cut to her chin, is like a silk scarf in front of you, waiting. How it catches in the wind. You inhale red wherever you find it, touch it to your cheek. She catches you staring at her hair, forgets about your age, your hands wrinkling, forgets about the decay in your fingernails. You know you were fucking your ex-wife the day she was born, on a soft rug in the front room, candles surrounding you, orange cream and cherry blossom. Everything is covered in the smell of blue now. The wife’s face is a torturous grin, crinkled into you like a thistled shadow. She is not your wife, not as you had left her. This is the only way you can forget your age around her, with mirrors lost in other rooms, the way you feel inside coming out in your fingers, not in the dusty suits you wear. Only cigarettes know how old you are. And coffee stains in the back room. She will never know your mother has hair red as rum and always smelled like violets. She tucks her panties underneath your futon and lies there in a shirt that you know matches. It goes with red. She inhales your second-hand smoke, coos when you read your poems, her fingernails unable to tap at meaning, and tap tap tap is how she listens when she leans against the headboard, mumbles something about Zen. She is as young as you remember them all to be, as young as it can get. Every time you look at her you hope for many more whiskey moments like these, for red hair piling at your door step. You will swirl the strands against the shower wall, wipe them onto your body with a used towel. She looks at you like she has an orchid for a tongue. You have memorized each peak and highlight on her head as if it was blood in your wrist.
Mary Stone Dockery's poetry and prose is forthcoming in > kill author, Foundling Review, Weave Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, Prick of the Spindle, and many other fine journals. She is the 2011 recipient of the Langston Hughes Award in poetry and is the co-editing founder of Stone Highway Review. She also co-edits Blue Island Review and writes mini reviews for Portal del Sol. She currently lives and writes in Lawrence, KS.