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 South Bend, Indiana, where she works as the Departmental Secretary of English and World Language Studies at Indiana University South Bend, and remains closely affiliated with 42 Miles Press, New Issues Poetry and Prose, and Wolfson Press. She previously 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 Editor of Poetry for Third Coast. Her poems have appeared in Encore Magazine, Sleet Magazine, Rogue Agent, Thank You for Swallowing, Whale Road Review, The James Franco Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, and Analecta; and her book reviews have appeared on her website and on The Rumpus. She lives with her husband, their daughter, and three cats. For more, visit View all posts by mckenzielynntozan

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