For the Escape and the Bonding

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We went to nature again, to Big Bend,
for the heat and the strangeness
of cacti, mountains,
and javelina.

The worst part was when we summited Emory Peak,
the last ten minutes bouldering with a bulky
backpack messing with my balance, my
wedding ring scraping against each
hold, the top narrow and windy,
and I too dizzy to
look around.
I felt old.
When I was young and single, I thought,
I might have felt freaked out, but I
knew then how to ignore it.
But I wasn’t sure
that was true.

The best part was when we swam in our underwear in the Rio Grande.
We waited for the canoe groups to go by, the river just a narrow
current there, so shallow the boats scraped against
the stones. Then we piled our clothes
like soft cairns and waded in.
You showed me how to do a push up to dunk myself in shallow water,
something you learned from your uncle who drowned in a river
almost a year ago and half way around the world,
disappeared like you once did,
500 miles up this same
Rio Grande.
We were rafting, and you fell in, completely submerged.
It was just for a moment, but in that moment,
I couldn’t believe how quickly and
entirely you were gone
from my world.

On the drive home, we pulled over at the immigration check point.
And where were you born, the soldier asked you.
I forget that you have an accent.
It never occurred to me
to bring our
But I’m a born and raised American,
which was apparent to the soldier,
who trusted in fragile
belongings and
waved us

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Elizabeth Paul has an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and her texts and images have appeared in Cold Mountain Review, Carolina Quarterly, Sweet Lit, The Indianapolis Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook Reading Girl is a collection of ekphrastic prose poems based on paintings by Henri Matisse. Liz served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan and currently teaches writing at George Mason University. Learn more at