Youth Rally

When I hear the word “romance,” I’m on
a hill we hiked up from the Christian campus
sitting too close to a boy from Wisconsin.
Evening dew, wild strawberries, grass
you can whistle through, thistles, June bugs.
That we might kiss saturates the air.
We topple back, his arm under my hair,
Oxford shirt, the beginning of a hug.
Faraway hymns. He takes his glasses off.
I don’t know the word but fecundity surrounds me,
smell of Stridex, detergent in his collar, coffee
in the corners of his mouth. I absorb it all, each
blade, our breaths, lust, mosquitoes, the June night,
the climax of innocence, Jesus, by moonlight.

Elizabeth Kerlikowske's fourth book of poems Dominant Hand came out this year from Mayapple Press. She teaches at Kellogg Community College and is president of Friends of Poetry, a nonprofit group that runs the Poems That Ate Our Ears contest for kids, hosts a reading series for adults at the Kalamazoo Public Library, and paints poetry murals on downtown buildings.

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