Alyse tugs limes
down from her neighbor’s tree, draping
itself over their ten-foot fence. She uses a tool
made specially for this: long rod with clawed
end, the thin prongs cupping air
like an open-ended whisk. The limes
abound and she says,
You could make lime juice with these.
I dissolve, respond,
Yes, in fact, lime juice
is about all that limes make.
She laughs in that beautiful, full
way Alyse laughs, flipping her dark hair
forward then back
as she lets out a long, throaty puff. I can’t see
her face in the 9pm glow but I know
it scrunches, know her mouth
opens as she shifts steadily on bare feet.

I mean like, limeade,
but it’s too late: I offer
an mmmhmm and we giggle
compulsively. She stands on the small wall
containing her parents’ hill
of mint and basil, reaches back
to the tree; I stand on her cool grass and dodge

the citrus she flings at my feet.
This year we cannot coexist
inside, enclosed air dangerous, every person
uncertain. This season we cannot exist
outside, ash raining on yards, each breath
toxic. Winds shift
and air quality lightens, hazardous
to moderate. New flames
burst along the coast daily; we act
quickly. Gather mozzarella,
tomato, balsamic to pair with the basil
we’ve plucked, lay kombucha
and fresh-baked granola between
our blankets, six feet apart.

Alyse and I chatter as
we have since dusk, words cracking
hearts open til our connection grows
thicker than the smoke above us.