You breathe, I imagine,
in the shape of your vowels,
taste the sound before its birth,
feel the way it fills your mouth
in the space usually reserved
for another tongue
even as your own pretends
to trace the outline of words
not yet spoken.

You said, I remember,
that you would not strip
me, that you could not stand
to see me laid bare,
this skin only a pattern, opaque,
wrapped about my bones
and warm around the channels
of my blood.

And you hesitate, first
to desire, then to touch;
you long for silence,
all the better to tell yourself
the truths that cannot become butterflies,
while still I refuse to blame you
for that which you will not say.

butterfly kiss