Without Gloves | by Katie Quinnelly

in a top floor hotel room, two epistolary lovers meet for the first time in person
and I watch from outside in the cold, gripping the window pane
without gloves, because climbers never wear gloves, even when it’s frosty

I’m surprised they don’t see me

but maybe they do, and they ignore me, because what’s happening in there
is a lot more important than the fucking around that I’m doing outside

they make love with their clothes on
like great pianists do, the room is filled up with the notes of it and he sweats
heavily under, then over her, never touching, but they’re so close that I start to sweat, too

then my sweat freezes to my neck hair when the wind punishes me
for being such a fucker out there in the cold, and I hear a crow
tell me, “this is the difference between musicians and athletes” and
“the importance of syntax is, for example, when someone says ‘I have a dead dad’ instead of ‘my dad is dead,’ that means possession.”

back in the hotel bed, without even pulling back the sheets, he speaks to her
in arabic and spanish and hebrew and he either says something that could unravel
my universe or he tells her what he’ll be having for dinner later, I can’t read lips
but whatever it is, it makes her head snap back like he’s loaded an arrow on her spine

the crow chuckles, “possession can kill you”
“shush!” I say, and the crow, reading over my shoulder, asks, “wait, how do you know the lover’s language is hebrew? have you been with him before?”
my fingers go numb, but still I cling

in the hotel room, he lets her do this, and she lets him do that

he rises up slowly from the bed and I can see his sweat-heavy chest hair tangles
pulsing when he breathes through his nose, taking a drink of water
that he holds in his cheeks so they’re these two bloated, veiny and small things
it’s amazing he carries them without spilling any from his lips, and he comes

back to her in the bed and frames her head with his hands and she rolls over onto her back, opens her mouth for the water to be let in
it pours forth without splattering, and she swallows it like this: gulp
and I’m inside her



Katie Quinnelly is a climbing instructor in West Virginia. Her work can be found in the Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Moonchild Magazine, and The Ginger Collect.