Vassar Student Review

Vassar Student Review

Keeping Distance

By Allison Pearl

I was too young to know, and I craved a hopeless closeness

that the water-sunken earth couldn’t bestow.

The slanted shade pressed out a depth of hedge, while below,

the endless velvet petals and lamb’s ears I pressed


in my palms were a maddening, heartsick test:

holding each one, I could not bear to choose

if I preferred crushing it to a dense, wet bruise

or if prolonging its softness pleased me best.


How to shade or blur this skin away,

pull the brush tighter over myself and cover my limbs—

where down hair on my restless legs still held rims

of slanting sun. Twigs snap and clothes fray,


a hasty hand slips down the bias of a stone. The cut sings

out and I hum all through myself a flowering pang.

Tears, hotter than blood or air, roll down then hang

on my cheek as I sob over the miserable, silly state of things.


I scramble up and out, into hot, unbidden arms from indoors,

but something would not stop seeping deeper in and in—

what I had sought without now burned and blushed within.

That was when I first felt it: the sting of wanting and getting more.


So now I do my best to keep my distance, letting the far stay afar,

and desire is tempered: wanting only blurs further inward.

Growing up I’m getting better, though sometimes it’s still hard

to leave a softness alone — but I know we must, graceless handlers that we are.

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