"After the Lovers," by Kelcey Ervick

Kelcey Ervick

Kelcey Ervick

Kelcey Ervick is the new name of Kelcey Parker, author of two award-winning works of fiction: Liliane's Balcony: A Novella of Fallingwater (Rose Metal Press 2013) and For Sale By Owner (Kore Press 2011). Her forthcoming book, The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová, will be published by Rose Metal Press in 2016. She teaches at Indiana University South Bend. (Kelcey Ervick is also the old name of Kelcey Parker, who changed her name a long time ago and has now changed it back.)

The Lovers II by Rene Magritte

After the Lovers
[after “The Lovers II” by René Magritte]

Here, I say, put this on and we’ll both be safe. (Can you tell that I’m shaking?)

You look at the white cloth in my hand and say, with the smirk of a necktie, How are the flowers coming up?

Last fall we planted seeds and bulbs, both of us bent on our knees digging cool earth.

(Our bodies, I’d said, were like swans dipping heads under water.

Like a kid learning to dive, you’d said.

We couldn’t even agree on similes.)

The flowers are fine, I say. Please, put this on. I hold out the fabric, the hem of some angel, what ghosts use.

You distract me with flower talk. Even the lilies? you say.

Except the lilies, I say.

I put the cloth over my head. Like this, I tell you.

I am covered now, protected. I am a specter, surrounded by white darkness, white noise, white air.

And then you say it, what I’ve dreamed: Let’s get back together. We’ll learn from our mistakes. We’ll never, you say, plant lily bulbs upside-down again.

Such promises! But I am immune to your boxcar grin; all I see is white. This is what it is to be a ghost.

What about the tulips? you ask.

The upside-down lilies never bloomed, but the tulips, tall and sturdy, almost outnumbered the tears I cried after you left. They bloomed longer than we did. (And you wonder why I ask you to put this on?)

I feel for your hands and press the cloth into your palm.

If we both take precautions this time, protect ourselves, I say, we cannot hurt one another. (But maybe I never hurt you?)

The silence is white as you place the cloth over your head. Think of it like a glove on the hand of a gardener, I say (though you never like my similes). We can penetrate as deep as we want without the stain of dirt, the stab of thorns.

Speaking of thorns, you say, did the roses come back?

I blindly reach out for your face—is it on yet?—but only get air, nothing. Your voice haunts from my right.

The roses? Did they come back?

Thorns and all, I say, turning, reaching.

Now your voice is behind: The blackberries? Did they come back?

Yes, yes, more this year. Bigger, blacker.

On my left: Strawberries?

Strawberries, yes. Oh yes.

Now, suddenly, in front of me again, your hands pull me toward you, your hips press against mine: And what about me? you whisper. Did I come back?

I can feel your hands on the back of my head, pulling my shrouded face to yours, my cloth lips to yours. I am protected, but the threads of your cloth rub friction against mine and if I am not careful I will wrestle off my protection, my angel’s garment, tear it in half, and wave the white flag of surrender when what I should do is wave farewell, give you up, give up your ghost.

But oh how you kiss me now.

Just like I dreamed you would in my dreams every night how I dreamt until the night that I stopped dreaming for fear that I wasn’t living, that I wasn’t alive, that I was a ghost, that my whole life was just a dream of you coming back. What if I’m dreaming now. I haven’t dreamed in so long and maybe dreams come back like roses and blackberries after a cold hard winter. Like ghosts after we die. Do you like my similes now. How you kiss me. Just like I always dreamed. Kiss me all you want, lover, this time I’m protected. Kiss me just like in my dreams. In my dreams you come back and you kiss me and I am protected because it is only a dream. But now you are back (are you) and you kiss me and I am protected by this garment like a dream. You can’t hurt me did you really come back are you really here. How you kiss me! But is it real. Did my dreams come true or did my dreams come back. I can’t tell with this thing on my head! Maybe you came back or maybe my dreams came back, like a rose does, like ghosts do. You kiss me and you kiss me and if I’m dreaming and if I’m not dreaming and if I’m not careful I will surrender to your haunting because this white protected kiss tastes like a lily’s brown bulb and I don’t want it anymore this protection this rag this dream I take it off I only want your kiss your thorns your you oh you could you really be you—