Safe Word

Let’s try this again—instead
of walking down a dirt road, we’re walking
down a path in the park. We’ve ditched

the apples, and we’re eating
fall leaves. And instead of telling you
I love you, I’ll tell you

I never did. And you’ll be quiet,
because you’ll know. Because I don’t
love you. Not really. Not on this dirt road or

swollen path, not while my mouth is full
of apple core and leaf spine. You have to let go,
I’ll say, go do something else.

And you will. Because next to the path
is a river, but you won’t quite dive in. Instead,
you’ll take off all your clothes, throw them

into the water. Gather up a pile of leaves and hold them
over your crotch, clustered there,
and go running off. Your feet will blister

on all that pavement, your skin a graveyard
of bumps when you finally get home and tell your family
what I’ve done.

Only for a moment, you will hesitate—because
what have I really done to you but put sound to wind,
and watch a naked frame diminish up a path,

watch dark-matter fabric sink and drift with the current?


About mckenzielynntozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives and writes in Indiana, where she works as a virtual assistant, editor, and freelance writer via her self-started business, MLT Creative. She received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University, where she worked as the Layout and Design Editor for New Issues Poetry and Prose and as an Assistant Poetry Editor for Third Coast. She previously completed her B.S. in Secondary English Education and B.A. in English, with a Concentration in Writing, at Indiana University South Bend, where she worked as the Managing Editor for 42 Miles Press. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Encore Magazine, Thank You for Swallowing, The Spooklet, Sleet Magazine, and Analecta, among others; and her book reviews and essays have appeared on The Rumpus and Motherly. When not writing, she enjoys art and music, and the simple mathematics of being a wife of one, a mama of two, and a cat-mom of three. For more, visit View all posts by mckenzielynntozan

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