Danika Stegeman LeMay
We come from antithetical environments that engender
polarized types of suffering.
I was born in winter, amid lakes sheeted in ice 16” thick.
You were born in a desert in spring, when the heat is
stifled and rain is possible.
Our temperatures fluctuate between -3℉ and 63℉
for a maximum difference of 66℉ and a mean of
We meet at a point just above freezing.
Sometimes I’m trying to inhabit your ecosystem,
and sometimes I’m trying to imagine you into mine.
You don’t know what winter feels like.
Once, in the desert, I fainted outside a motel lobby
with smoke in my lungs, disarranged
in the pre-dawn eeriness.
In a faint, I enter an unfamiliar life mid-
stream and exist there for seconds at a time.
When I resurface, I’m left with a flashpoint of other-life
that must belong to you.
The desert desires water and takes it.
Home, I trudge through a snow-covered forest
to an open field, make a U-turn and shadow myself
It’s easy to forget snow is just crystallized water
piled up; it’ll seep underground eventually.
Water is an offering whatever form it chooses.
The desert is most radiant in a flood.
The leading cause of death in the desert isn’t dehydration
but sudden drowning.
The belief that drowning is the most painful way to die,
while freezing culminates in euphoria, turns out to be
When I look up “is drowning painful” the third search result
is a suicide hotline.
I find this somewhat comforting.
I faint when I’m sick.
I faint when I give blood.
I faint in large crowds.
I faint in dry heat.
Each time, I arrive in the place I first saw you.
I deconstruct the desert in brief intervals
to take inventory.
I separate the prickly pear cacti from the
long-needled diamond cholla,
place the snakes near the red rock
and the chalk dudleya near the limestone.
I conceal the scant clouds well-distant from the night sky
because what I want more than anything is to see the stars
I listen for the cascade of water.
Tossed for luck, I wake to taste the glint of pennies
rolling in a creek’s mouth.
I keep you with me for seconds at a time.
Danika Stegeman LeMay’s debut collection of poems, Pilot, is available now from Spork Press. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and daughter. Her work has appeared in 32 Poems, Cimarron Review, CutBank Literary Journal, Denver Quarterly, Forklift, OH, Sporklet, and Word for/ Word, among other places. Her website is danikastegemanlemay.com