Carol Guess and Rochelle Hurt
Not Baby, quite. No roles in a family show, unsuited to Mom or Bambi. Hunter’s a world away, but murder hides in the rosehips. I gather my accessories and the heft of it kills me. Bad joke.
Swaying double yellow lines muscle the drop where maps leave off. This won’t be recorded. Red X strands me nowhere good. What stops for me should stop for no one, but no one does. Swerving brakes screech me awake. A little small talk, a little cherry pop and chips. Oil on my fingertips. Rain on the windshield vanishes in time to classic rock.
The truck stop bleeds diesel fumes and lemon pie. Rubbing my hands under the faucet feels as clean as lying. Pack of gum, plastic comb, egg salad sandwich: I’m new again. Try another name this time. I’m getting too good at forgetting which one.
Hitched to nothing so much as the side of the road, I’m used to leaving my body. A door opens and I enter into pebble, enter into glove, enter into windshield crumb, Pepsi bottle, old Nike. It’s cinematic. Should have bought a pink pistol so you’d know what to call me. Enter into chest.
No matter now—I’m more fun this way, you think. (That’s what I told my friends after a drink.) Every ghoul has its gore and you were waiting with popcorn. Don’t ask me how to close this door. Don’t ask me what my other names were for.
This is who I am: small as the town that spit me out. He’s naming me again. I climb into the car and pretend I’m the driver. How does anyone count to ten? It takes so long up the ladder. Spit in my ear earrings tangled in my hair we’re there.
Dirty socks, stubbed toe. Wrecked branches on a tree across a swollen road. I can’t complain about ice cream when it leaves the cone. If someone knocks on the door of the car, I’ll know I’m alone.
Fat robins on the branch might have a shot at saving themselves. I’m too thin for winter weather and the coat he gives me holds angry money. I jangle with coins when I pee at the stop. We aren’t going anywhere tonight. We’re home.
Stars are only breathing holes if you can see them. Inside is a name like a bath for easing into so I drain it. Just like that I’m grown.
For months I watch the lack eating both bowls, my hands
cold around her hot soup. My hair fades to cotton, my spine shrinks inward.
The dog plays by himself with a bit of carrot, tossing it up, gnawing it down.
My teeth dull to pebbles. I feel nothing and so I feel everything.
At work, people stop seeing me, forget the name taped to my back: KICK ME PLZ.
I transpose lives, wake married to sunlight. Then it’s raining again,
dog’s nose orange confetti, sirens howling at the super moon, shimmering rooms
filled with ghost furniture, chairs that aren’t there, past lives on the couch. My thoughts
stretch through my body’s empty hallway. Mine, I say naming the carrot-stained carpet,
then float out on my own echo. The future’s an island so far away
I can prop it up with one pinky. My phone rings, alarmed. I think
of calling her to say: I’m nothing you ever knew.
Carol Guess is the author of twenty books of poetry and prose, including Darling Endangered, Doll Studies: Forensics and Tinderbox Lawn. A frequent collaborator, she writes across genres and illuminates historically marginalized material. In 2014 she was awarded the Philolexian Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement by Columbia University. She teaches at Western Washington University and lives in Seattle.
Rochelle Hurt is the author of In Which I Play the Runaway (Barrow Street, 2016), which won the Barrow Street Poetry Prize, and The Rusted City: A Novel in Poems (White Pine, 2014). She's been awarded prizes and fellowships from Arts & Letters, Hunger Mountain, Poetry International, Vermont Studio Center, Jentel and Yaddo. She lives in Orlando and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Florida, and she runs the review site The Bind.