Tara Shea Burke

Tara Shea Burke is from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and lives with her partner in rural New Mexico. She served as poetry editor for The Quotable and Barely South Review, and is a guest editor and board member for Sinister Wisdom, a Multicultural Lesbian Literature and Arts Journal. Her chapbook Let the Body Beg was published by ELJ Publications, andrecent  poems can be found in The Fourth River, Adrienne (Sibling Rivalry Press), Yellow Chair Review, Calyx, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Minola Review. She teaches in Santa Fe. Find more at:www.tarasheaburke.com

What is in Front of Us


ppppppppppppp“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing,
pppppppppppppthere is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Rumi

Out in a field our dogs run

and run off-leash, houses

in the near-distance,


tree-line covering the backyards

of other dogs. Our Siberian husky

is on a long-line. The old dog can roam,


but if given too much freedom, he bolts.

Your favorite dog, the smart, Australian

cattle herder, is off-leash but only listens


to you, comes when you call, sits

when you say sit. I watch the two of you

as the sun sets at the end of the year.


She heels and you reward her

from the multi-pocketed training vest

I bought you for Christmas.


The fading light is behind two trees

that are dancing black silhouettes—bare

and reaching. Our other dogs are in the car,


barking and whining from the kennels you built

from scratch in the garage as I watched you work,

your perfect breasts tight behind a sports bra


and an old pair of Navy coveralls.

I am struck by the scene of us in this field.

The uncertainty of this sunset and our next


steps together. Who will we be in 365 days?

You’ll be in a new uniform with a new badge

on your breast, a rookie deputy in the year


after Ferguson and a choke hold held

and held. How will you see this world

with your gun? Is there anything


we can protect? They say nothing good


comes of worry. Maybe I’m holding on

too tight. But maybe every rogue

officer who was too scared to think or


was righteous in the shot he took was once

like us in this field, training dogs

and running drills, getting his body


right and tight, believing he could

make a difference, fix the system. I believe

you could make a difference, fix


the system. Who knows how

we will change. What I fear most

is the loss of hopefulness.


The sun sets, and before it’s too dark,

we pack up all our love into cars

and drive home.



Only This


How comfortable

we have become. How easy

our intimacy, how quick

each goodnight kiss, how habitual

our rolling over to each

of our preferred sides, how sweet

your heavy hand

on my hip. Love is good

like this.


What more could I possibly want?

Even when I know my body

can’t take it anymore—anticipation

a sharp tease in the air

before snow—even when

I beg you with subtle shifts

of my pelvis—your soft belly

against my lower back—

to break our cycle

of easier sleep, even when

my pulse might freeze

unless I muster

the courage to travel

my own hand

from its easy rest

at your oblique

to the better season

between your thighs,

even when this habit

of love and partnership, this

just as it is and always will be

my only understanding

of faith, even when

I worry if this elixir

could spoil if what has settled

is not stirred—


I turn to you after hearing

those deeper breaths of sleep, let

my fingers linger over the birthmark

I swear is growing and you swear

was always this size and shade,

and it’s here where I remember:

there is no forever.

There is no guarantee. Only this:

the body and its needs,

the heart’s deep river

and the sharp tugs

beneath the skin

for more.

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