Sniff

Nick Ripatrazone



I see Noble wearing a merino sweater, short. His long fingers thrum against the thermal. He lopes across the field. You may be sorry for him but I'm not. I know you want Noble—skin like salmonberry—ever so smooth.

Noble toes the scree. I bought him those sandals in Bennington, at the market, woodbine stretching around the back, where the owner's wife dumped dag beneath the oxtongue. She was so hunched over her knees were her elbows. You know, like your mother, with the weight of you constantly across her shoulders.

But Noble is mine. You can lay no claim. Try to colly his cheeks. Or catch him before he reaches the braided stream. That's where he'll kick off those sandals like I never existed. He'll wave you over. Or so you think.

There he goes. Noble. Once when we were hand in hand he whispered but there was no one else around. He had a lox tongue, acicular.

I would rather eat baneberry than give Noble to you. I would rather rub baize on my stuff than give him to you. I'm showing him to you so that you can see what you will never have. You say this is torture. To watch his rangy body bobble between the rocks. You know those rocks are settled into the earth like teeth. You know that he can have a foothold in redd. Those salmon eggs popping between his toes. Rived as they trail away. Finally they move downstream.

I'm laughing now as you sprint toward him. I see you slip on rockweed, overextend your crotch, sweep at the air. The parr beneath you sidle. You fuck. You wrote Noble a letter on onion skin with curled l's and d's. He showed me it.

He is downstream, lambent in this dusk. He turns and I can see the umber film along his feet from smashing the eggs. He can wear the dead better than anybody. Once on the porch he stomped a carpenter bee into the plank with his bare heel.

Noble begins to run and it is beautiful because now, in this day, running is only done for sport, around oxblood tracks and down packed trails, but he runs across leaning grass, the sandals I bought him long since orphaned. Yet I can accept that. I can accept that he has left a part of me, more than one part of me, part of my skin and my feeling.

Noble is the kind you have to give and let him take. I know this. You don't. And you are most likely not knowing while you follow him through the charlock. You hitch your trousers from the water. He grabs you and takes you behind a cedar. And there you are. And there he is. Hand on your neck. Tongue on your chin. Close enough for you to smell him.





Nick Ripatrazone is the author of Oblations (Gold Wake Press 2011), a collection of prose poems. Recent work has appeared in Esquire, The Kenyon Review, West Branch, The Mississippi Review, Caketrain, and Beloit Fiction Journal.