I find us in Vol 314, Issue 4 of Scientific American

Two precision experiments disagree on how long neutrons live before decaying so maybe
that explains the discrepancy between views on continuing our relationship;
my experiment found us alive longer.
Measurement error or parallel timelines?
I’m trying to tell you there’s more than one conclusion, each of us having independent variables.

Every year is a variable, too— the shifting state of things.
Just think of the environmental influences, of each house we’ve lived in. I think of the two mattresses
in the little brick townhouse, us napping in the “super” bed,
longitudes of sun shifting across the room.
The extra was an accidental delivery (the phrase describes us, too), remember?

In another house, I still see our names listed with permanent marker, large straight letters
on a little card tucked into a plastic pouch on the inside of the mailbox door.

We knew that plastic was a problem. Tuck anything into a pocket made of it and it will not last forever but deteriorate into messy molecular fragments, and this instability can ruin a vacation or a birthday.
This is preserved, too:
bathroom tile cold against my thighs, me sobbing, only one pink line in a plastic window,
you, silent and thankful, asleep in our bed,
and then you in your bed and me in mine (I bought a comforter for you, a kind of degrading denial).

Anything that survives us seems immortal, still plastic does degrade.
Researchers are learning how to rescue the endangered treasures,
but the genius of birds is that a nest is temporary.

The temporary space of separate rooms (and the decay housed in them) is extended.
Our names are still listed together, a deed now, but separate on the labeled groceries in the fridge.
Luckily for life on earth, most matter is not radioactive yet, the subatomic particles particular to us
seem always ionizing. Still, I don’t sleep well alone.
That’s called half-life. 


I miss terribly
sticky sundaes, butterscotch
and airy ice cream—vegan soft serve is so rare— I have less guilt now
but I had none then, just
warm summer nights, ice cream, sweet tempering the salt of a sweaty monsoon season
and only a swamp cooler
than it could have been I guess.

Butterscotch. A way my mother loved me.
She bought cold joy to say she could not do anything about the weather,
but she could wait in the Dairy Queen drive-through, line out into the street.
A way to say sorry.

I could’ve picked another flavor back then
but I rejoice I didn’t because (and I don’t know why) there is no butterscotch substitute,
none convincing anyway.
Same for malted milk.
How do they malt the milk and can I malt an almond?
If we have fake butter for our nostalgia, then how might I scotch it
and taste some semblance of my childhood that doesn’t sting
like a slap across the cheek because I said I hate to cry,
hate the way rage can burn a mother’s vision into white snow except I said
“I hate you.”
9 is too young to better articulate.
Then again I suppose so is 29
and 34.
I mean to say I still do that, say what I don’t mean.
My vision gets white, too. I can’t see
that what I hate isn’t him.
It’s everything
the nothing left between us
but a memory of a sundae I cannot recreate and why would I want to? 

According to Darwin, canine teeth are often less pronounced
or absent in the females of many species

Keep the eye and give me the tooth.

Gnawing seems more handy.
When will I learn to eat the fruit and spit the pit out?
Everyone knows to expel the stone of stone fruit, still
I can swallow some cyanide—marrow of a cherry’s bone— let it ferment
in the gut before entering the bloodstream.
Symptoms of slow poisoning are the same as fast, just gradual, present and unnoticed for years
so the bane remains undiscovered

Night sweats
damp sheets because it’s summer
and I cannot help myself from finding you in the dark, from tasting the way lust makes you quiet,
dizziness or weakness usually preceding.
Ache in the head and irritabilty in the skin
alternating needle pricks across the arm and fluttering stomach muscles with your proximity.
Difficulty swallowing, with both fellatio and the onset of tears
when your mood (or mine) shifts
and I become nothing (or you become everything wrong in the world)
just for a little while.
The rashes appear nightly and (after a few years) they become a part of one’s bodily inventory,
so we cycle through acute onset and remissions
double vision.

Teeth become less with use (they are not muscle)
and though there is an invisible meridian from eye to canine, one is bigger than the other.
So many hard seeds among the softer flesh, cyanide building.
The enamel wears away,
but still, the jaw is gruesomely useful.

Consider your surroundings in fourteen lines

  1. The yard outside the bedroom window was your solitude- a place to secret a smoke.
  2. Outside the window, weeds stand to my hip, internal stagnation made naked to the homeowner’s association
  3. The wind gently rustling through the weeds is the way air starts to move in my lungs again when at last I believe you won’t come back.
  4. The window itself, stuck open an inch by a rusted crank, is me, listening for signs of life.
  5. A trail of worn clothes leads from a ray of sunlight on the tile to the side of the bed I sleep on, not out of sight but indeed out of mind; what will still fit?
  6. There’s a row of shoes too, no pair lined up next to each other, but they’re all there, none missing (it’s the way I recall our happinesses, resentments, and the respective lusts that follows).
  7. I keep the arts and crafts bins in the bedroom, a prayer that paper hearts and glue might mend the parts that don’t make sense when I cut the collage back into pieces.
  8. Washed clothes stacked in leaning piles keep me company in bed; I keep plans for the future where I sleep
  9. But the blanket that nestled us both covers them and I forget what’s there- I can’t remember before we met, not accurately anyway.
  10. Speaking of blankets, the weighted knit is new since you left, and while I need to be pressed to sleep, I know when next you sleep here you will throw it off in the night. Big enough for two does not matter in this room.
  11. If I sleep on my left side, my line of sight leads to an outlet choked with too many chargers, cords dangling, heartstrings in suspension
  12. The circuit will overload soon, the way I falter trying to remember to exhale the molecules that don’t serve me when I suck in what life surrounds me with.
  13. Carbon dioxide is only poison if your body won’t let it go.
  14. My silence is your memory surrounding me, a gas that will damage the body if I take in too much without release.

Straddling me, her wetness on my belly,
legs propped, toes en pointe
with feet and small of back arched

Remembering Details for Ruben

Her apple-round breasts
bobbing in and out of the sweater,
stiffened nipples grazing the neckline.

My head turning,
to kiss the delicate, pale skin inside her elbow,
the tiny blue veins there and in her forearm,

The low V sweater,
hanging to just below
the crescent of her ass, nothing underneath.
No panties, only pearlescent pink flesh,
prickly hair

Her taking the sweater off, to sleep topless.
The wetness on my belly lingered.

Bryanna Botham lives in Tucson, AZ with a tween who hates poetry. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Arizona and she was a 2021 finalist in the Women on Writing summer flash fiction contest She currently serves on the board of the Tucson Poetry Festival.