The summer sun curled the bark of the Manzanita
exposing the soft pulp.
I’d run my fat palms over the smooth flesh
and tear dried bits of bark that crunched
like crisp potato chips
I was pulling back bits of skin,
after sunburns, from playing too long at the public pool house.

With our feet in the cold Feather River we’d
to be Concow women washing our clothes by the bank
and grinding fresh corn into flat cakes
with stones against the rocks.
We cut our fingers
with a stolen jack knife
(the one you snagged from your mother’s boyfriend).
The exposed crevasse of sliced skin boiling,
running down our fingers like red tributaries
kissing and mating
into an estuary between the first finger and the thumb.
We spit
pressed our fingers together
and prayed
now we could never be separated.

I had watched the bubble of our saliva slide over my knuckle,
like a swollen rain drop
it plummeted to the earth
swallowed by the muck that oozed between our sweet toes.

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