The secret to sin is to do it

in secret. We learned secrecy young—


two girls taught to swallow our hunger—

so we meet up at nightfall

once the last lights have gone out. We walk

down the roads, cursing this town

full of coal-miners and farmers and churches,

cursing the way we’ll likely never leave.

The air is petrichor-stained, and we’re led

only by the humming streetlights

and starlit sky. We find each other

at our meeting place, the lake south of me,

north of you, me scrambling over the wet rocks

toward the grove where you’ve lain down

the knit blanket. And as soon as we catch

each other’s eyes, we’re each saying Here 

is my shirt, here is my hair, my hands,

my mouth, take it, take me, right


now. Your eyes glow like lightning bugs,

jaw sharp as my pocket knife. As we strip

our breaths turn to fog, the cool drizzle falling

onto your curls and half-shut eyelids.

Your thighs shear mine—

the seawater taste of skin, the scrape of teeth

against lip, fingertips meandering down spines,

tracing mandibles. Breaths a windstorm—

some desire to rub ourselves together

till we make some sort of fire. As your mouth


latches onto skin hardly anyone has seen,

rosy even in this low light, we gasp

like people drowning, and I try to think

of a word for the way I want you—wildly,

maybe. Like a monsoon. But what’s at first erotic

erodes: love collapsing like the hills

that gave way after so much rain and mud

last winter. And so much want

is sinful—I know—so we’re wary

of the fires and floods, lying together

only in darkness, water spattering our faces,

swallowing what we can of each other.

Originally published in Prairie Schooner

On Being Gay in Yemassee

I’ll never forget us

entraining this freight at dusklight

to escape cabbage farms, rusted barns

and Bible-barkers who stumble

through starrified nights.

Will our fear follow us?

We poach peaches off pallets

and lick juicedrips off our lips

like it’s all we know,

on the road to salvation—

me, carving a heart into the wood

and you, a miracle

in the moonshine, grabbing hold

of my trembling hand

like maybe we’re something holy.

Originally published in Folio

Despy Boutris is published or forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, The Adroit Journal, Prairie Schooner, Palette Poetry, Third Coast, Raleigh Review, Diode, The Indianapolis Review, and elsewhere. Currently, she teaches at the University of Houston and serves as Assistant Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast.