Grey morning churned fog
along my eyes’ edges, a soupy slough
of muddy memories; our gazes met like Florida’s horizon,
mine: brown Everglades water,
his: blue Everglades sky.
The heat stroke shed details like discarded feathers,
sucked deep by swamp.
At Shark Valley, we biked 15 miles
and ran out of water halfway. Ethan
laid me, delirious, by the side of the trail,
his sawgrass hair spreading cloudy tendrils into the air.
I closed my eyes, smelled mud and musk,
saw red tracks behind my eyelids,
heard ibises taking flight.
I woke surrounded by the white walls
of Heaven’s gift shop, clutching a tiny bell:
the clay bead clinked against the ceramic dome,
cool in my flushed hands.
At the ring, Ethan kneeled, eye-to-eye, mud-to-sky,
and promised I’d recover.
White ibis wings sprouted from his back.
Grey afternoon churned fog
along my eyes’ edges; my swamp spirit
with the glance of Everglades sky
trembled on lanky, just-hatched legs
as we piggy-backed across the doorframe
towards the car, my final
CASSIE HOTTENSTEIN graduated from the University of North Florida with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in creative writing and writing studies. Her other work has appeared in PULP, Perversion Magazine, The Talon Review, Exothorpe, and The Tampa Review Online. She now lives in the Boulder, Colorado area with her husband and two pet rats.