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Astral Projection

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 

pierce it. 

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

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