You felt constantly tenderized from the inside out, burned like thunder into a streaked sky. You carried your heart like a tackle box and cast out, hopeful for right words. And you took her way, way high on the railway climb as she told you about how she felt like a million little bits of glass. Stirred up, whirlpooled inside a jam jar. Seaglassed. She stared deep into the eye of the pond ached with algae. Her hair was almost gone, blindfolded. Wiry, tufted. As you remembered it, even the trees were sighing. She knew you wanted her to be roses all over. Falling out like third grade tennis rackets, denim and corduroy and sliding horizons. Chemotherapy made her skin brittle, burnt sierra, pitted beneath a tender diamond sky.

You apologized and apologized and were sorry. You were sorry, and you listened. Everything in her was swift marrow symmetry, sharded sandpaper talk.

She had a mind like raceways and filing cabinets. Every memory stung, pincushioned under laminate fingernails. She let all the west wind inside of her out in pulsed, bleated hiccups. Fireworks, infidelity, footsteps. Too much agreement for a Sunday afternoon. She talked soft like that for hours, and you listened as the sun became wild and sherbet, as it set like pearl necklaces and keyed cars. Her eyes undid themselves, rattling until her pupils grew wide and strong and sad. And she did not cry. She told you about how the blood in trees circulates, pumps, gags. About sap and the split stones in your soul. About how you cut it all down. The woodchips on the ground reminded you of baby feet. The air, teeth.

That was the part where the sky turned to coal, smoked itself deep into the morning. That was the part where you raked her into your arms and tied your pulse to hers. The swift marrow symmetry was all gone then.

The sun rose. She stopped talking. You stopped listening. Your plans to catch a Tuesday matinee fell through like shot stars into the Atlantic, flaming rain. Bucket, toenail shells, brine stones, Hyannis call-bells, all of it pinching her static pulse like singed tea voodoo. Lightning spider veins crowded slantways and banded her pale thigh. The afternoons and the mornings and the midnights, she said they were martyred lengthwise and all over. Something about the weight of hospital ceilings kept you from understanding exactly why.