When I think of how much I don’t know about infidelity, I think of that summer we all got hot and horny for people outside our marriages, how in love everyone was with the notion of someone with whom they wouldn’t have to really get naked, physically or linguistically, how the sky in my city was smoke-full and how we watched planes go down into the treed hills and drop fire retardant and how we only use that word now when we’re talking about things that will put out flames and how those planes came up lighter and then new planes came in, how the fire was always zero percent contained until it burned down the heron and eagle and frog habitat, how the river was low and the sun was high and then the moon came up and the hills were still burning, even though by God that fire must have been tired. That was the summer we all wrote about it, too, we were writing some really good shit. Then I asked my friend, Can we write about lust? And he said Maya, that’s exactly what you can write about—it’s what everyone wants to hear, those things you aren’t supposed to do or say, but everyone’s thinking. Then we went on to barbed wire and kudzu and the rolling fields of rural America, barns and animals and bicycles, and how, when you leave this town for a while and come back again, the streets look so empty, the horizon so orange, and how his wife describes that as being pretty close to the zombie apocalypse. His wife’s at a table nearby, doing her social work papers, and we’re talking and talking about his university’s new protocol for not sleeping with students, how obnoxious it is not to be treated like the professionals we so clearly are.
Maya Jewell Zeller has been a resident in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest and recipient of a Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation. She is the author of Rust Fish and Yesterday, the Bees; individual poems and essays appear in recent issues of Bellingham Review, Radar Poetry, High Desert Journal, and Pleiades. Maya serves as fiction editor for Crab Creek Review, poetry editor for Scablands Books, and assistant professor of creative writing at Central Washington University.
Artwork by Allison Dalton