BACKWARDS THROUGH WET GRASS

for Anthony Hecht

This Jersey fall, the unrelenting rain
has turned the front yards wild, their long, green hair
to otters’ root-slick pelts. Today, again
I step out into gray, breathe loamy air
and catch a scent of home, a British field
I camped in once – a weekend trip to study
frogs. By day we kept our bodies sealed
in waterproofs, our feet twice-socked in muddy
boots. At night we hid in tents, played games
of “Crazy Eights” beneath the pitter-pat
of rain, now drumming our roll call of names,
now scrabbling on the canvas like a rat.
We were fourteen – all hormones – huddled damp
and close, a nest of rabbits, screened from sight
by tent flaps, while our teachers’ hipflask camp
was pitched a hundred yards away. One night,
alone with me, Rob Murphy raised his hand
and touched my cheek. I shivered like a doe
for her first buck. He twined a loosened strand
of my dark hair around his thumb. I know
I twisted with it. He removed my glasses –
no one had ever done that – and he said
that I was pretty. Afterwards, in classes
I would stare at the back of his blond head
and dream of nameless acts. He nearly kissed
me, but our friends returned. The moment drained
away like runnels in the evening mist,
and came to nothing. Here, now it has rained
so much, that field, that clumsy, gentle boy
come back to me, and I remember this:
the thrumming rain, the unexpected joy
I knew at fourteen, for his almost-kiss.

Anna Evans

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