Three poems by Erik Porter

She Teaches Me Palm Reading

She plays a movie—the best, she says,
the first Batman—with the dark knight
as that rugged heartthrob. I’ve never seen
it, I say, but I’m ready. And that’s what first
dates are for, she says—new things, fun things.
We sit on her basement couch and watch, and
our arms touch near the elbow, just a graze—

but she can tell, I’m sure—it must be obvious—
that I’m uncomfortable, tense—that I’m treading
new ground. It has to be funny to her—a little
bit cute, endearing I hope—that all she did
was lean close enough for our arms to touch.
But I’ve got to move, I think. I can’t stay like
this—and so I move in tiny shuffles, and I try

to be discreet; I move far enough to end our touch,
and I stay close enough to hope it happens again.
I rest my hands on the quilt that covers us—a gift,
she said, from a friend. The squares, cotton and
linen, green and brown, are connected by little knots
of yarn I roll through my fingers. A small Christmas
tree stands on the end table; red, yellow, blue lights

wrap the green—it’s November though, not even
Thanksgiving, and so I nudge her with my arm to get
her attention, and I point at it—cool-like, and with
my thumb—I love Christmas, she whispers, and so I
always keep the tree up. A wall calendar—“unlikely animal
friends”—hangs on the wall. It’s a donkey and goat this
month, and they’re smiling like people, front legs touching.

A mannequin head, transparent, its features rounded
and soft, reflects the light of the TV like a prism. It looks
like a watch guard, the head, protecting The Lion King,
NCIS, Gilmore Girls. She readjusts and moves closer so we
touch again, our arms now pressed at the shoulder. I let it
happen this time, and I stay relaxed, calm. Maybe
that head modeled hats at a department store, or she

stanza break

bought it to practice drawing its contours, or it was
a thrift store jewel she found years ago. She rotates and
our knees touch. I turn a little too, trying to return the
favor—but this is as much as I’ll do—it will be enough
—we can watch like this for a while. Erik, she says,
hear me out, and she places her hand on my wrist, turns
my palm up, and clasps her hand onto mine, knitting our

fingers together. I feel the pressure between our conjoined
hands; I feel her move her fingers across the backs of mine.
And I wish I was a fortune teller—give me your hand, I’d
say—I’d hold her hand in both of mine, and I’d run my
thumbs across her palm. I’d feel her lifeline and every
crease—I’d take my time, noting each line, its path, how
it connects to the others—and I’d see her future, ours. 

Shakespeare’s Birds

Nay, I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak
nothing but ‘Mortimer,’and give it him
To keep his anger still in motion.
—Harry Percy, King Henry IV, Part I (1.3.223-224)

A flock of starlings bursts from its roost
in a lone, leafless tree; gentle hills roll
through the prairie around it. The birds
curve and jab, swirl and pulse, tumble
and soar across the yellows and blues

of the evening sky. They loop and twirl
like the smooth spirals of a gymnast’s
ribbon. I long to be closer—close enough
to see the fading sun shimmer on their
feathers and see their green and purple

shine—and close enough to listen for
the music that spurs their motion. But I
want to be farther away too, so I can see
their shapes, the ones they make together,
with curves and waves and lines that

roll and shift like the air they fly through.
Murmuration, they call their display, a way these
birds find a place to stay for the night. Scientists
have words for their shapes—Calculus terms
—hyperboloids, paraboloids, doesntmatteroids

that the birds shift into as they fly. And maybe it
does start as a murmur, their movement, just a
whisper, a subtle change in direction from one
that drifts through the flock like a current until
the entire group has changed shape and direction. 


It Won’t Be Long Until the Sun Sets

We lean into the wicker backs of our patio
chairs, my mother and I—my socked feet
skim the pavers beneath me, keeping time
as we watch dusk turn to evening. We eat
while we sit—our summer evening meal:
breaded chicken, Perdue, because she says
they’re less artificial; tater tots, Schwan’s, so
we have something to buy from the salesman
in his truck; raspberries and blueberries, Driscoll’s,
because she’s sure they taste better. And they do

—the berries, the freezer food—when we’re
outside, and we listen to Kupper’s dog bark at
cars, and we see the Storsved kids across the street,
playing whiffle ball in their empty lot—and
the Nibbes are out too—Rod and Maxine—and they
wave as they walk. They look good, too—our plates
—with reds and blues and oranges and yellows—
like our yard, and the sky—like the bright blue
of Mom’s Hyacinth—in the bee corner, as she calls
it, where the skinny blooms of these flowers extend
into the air. And the pink of young apples on our tree
—we’ll be picking soon, she says, with fall around

the corner, and frost. And the yellow tips of zucchini
buds in her garden, with the cucumbers and grape
tomatoes—and marigolds—the rabbits don’t like
them, she says, and they brighten the garden up.
The sun glows in the west before it sets. It’s gorgeous,
Mom says, and so calm tonight—it is—the color,
the air, the evening breeze that moves the grass,
the leaves, the hairs on my arms—and the temperature
—it’s comfortable—a neighborhood comfort—a
sun’s-going-down comfort of a summer prairie dusk.
We sit, and we watch, and we feel as the navy of
evening begins to hide our backyard colors.

Erik Porter

Erik graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., in May of 2020. He enjoys playing tennis, reading, writing, and making music.

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