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“Summer School: 19” & “Summersalt” by Ruby Rorty

Summer School: 19

The summer I learned to swim I also learned that one can survive three sticky months on popsicle melt and Lou Reed. When people say oppressively hot they are lying. Salt and water escape: you are left an empty room with no central cooling. The summer I learned about makeup I also learned about the night sky. My skin was a constellation of freckles and zits. Nothing helped, but after dark on the hill, we were just people-shaped imprints in the grass, stardust and dead skin and oil and perfume staring up at a different kind of forever. Learning about us meant learning about them. We took to the streets to throw a funeral decked in flags and fishnets. We made love and ate confetti to remember. On the periphery, storm clouds rumbled, threatened to drown our swelterlove and chosen joy. But we were a river of saltwater in the hot sun and we escaped into rainbows. Three queens held my hands and taught me how to blow bubbles. Swimming and dancing were the same so we danced butterfly, freestyle, breaststroke and backstroke. We held our breath and evaporated in the heat; left the streets glitterstruck for days.


We turn pink and then the sky does. I get up and rub suntan lotion across it. “Hold still,” I tell the sky, and it melts in contradiction. My lover appears behind me and begins to peel long strips of skin from me. “You’re molting,” he says and I guess the jig is up. There is nothing left to peel but the sky. Dead me skin and dead sky skin pile up on the rocks, burying my lover under molt. Underneath its burn, the sky is black and a few stars blink. You are only going to get hotter, I think sadly at the sky. The burns will only get worse. I mean it as a gesture of care, but the sky bares its teeth. You are only going to get dead, it thinks back.

Ruby Rorty is a scholar moonlighting as a journalist moonlighting as a poet in Chicago, IL. Her work has recently appeared in Mythic Picnic Volume 8, hex, EcoTheo, among others. You can find her on Twitter @RortyRuby or Instagram at ruby.rorty.


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