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Conducting Ivy with the Girl Down the Street

by Jamaal May
Illustration by Karen Barbour

Conducting Ivy with the Girl Down the Street

Jamaal May
11 Snaps

The way the house says
                      spider web
in a voice
           that looks like
                      aerial roots

 

scaling the face of this empty Tudor

 

the way her free hand
                      and mine swoop
and lift air
           like they belong

 

to conductors
           the way our batons pretend

 

to not be gnarled sticks
                      the way crescendo smells
like ivy leaves and brick—

 

it’s almost as if we know what we’re doing.

 

Every flourish
           conjures more flora
to reclaim
           the crossbeams and silica.

 

When I say  flutes!
                      and swing my stick
like a machete
                      through waist-high grass

 

the girl tells me what the swish of it looks like.

I try to picture a sliver
                      of wind—

 

detect the sound’s arc.

It’s there for a moment
                      then lost in the shadow
of the building
           our orchestra of vine and leaf

 

hasn’t quite devoured whole.

 

When I say  strings!
                      the girl sings

                      without notes

 

or words       eyes closed

 

head lolling
           like the breeze

 

           is doing something
electric to her hair.

 

She describes the shade of blue gusting

 

out of her baton
                      as it moves
like an archet
               over strings.

 

When the girl says       drums!

 

I break
into a broken
                      little beatbox

 

but she covers my mouth

 

kisses the back of her hand
                      and begins
to articulate
           the green

 

that just keeps rising out of us.

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