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In between, I brush my teeth in a truck stop and remember
how to fishtail my hair. Mostly my hands cramp
around the steering wheel, strange names echoing behind my eyes.
Chilhowie. Jensi feeds me strips of seaweed, wasabi salt
stinging my lips. Alhowe. Lauryn Hill croons under my questions
about exits and rest stops. Blountville. I hate everything about driving.
My shirt slicks my back, shoulders peeling into vinyl.
Hungry Mother State Park. I don’t understand fireworks emporiums
or rolls of curling hay. Damascus seems too regal for Tennessee:
a god of dying grass.
It’s 10 PM when a deaf girl orders a double espresso.
We hesitate, our hands waving – hers with motions
she knows I can’t understand, mine full of apologies.
I smile, scrambling for paper and a marker to write the price
and worrying, What the hell is five dollar card minimum in sign language?
I stupidly call her drink out, words slowing into my palm.
Later, when we’re scrubbing grounds off the espresso machine,
Salem asks me, “Do you ever look in the mirror when you’re on the phone
and remember you’re a real person?”
I can’t answer; my mind is stuck on two women I just saw kissing
on the patio. Tongues rattling with foreign consonants, fingers tracing
unfamiliar ink – strangers touching in a way that says I love you, don’t leave me. I can’t
understand your last name.
Noon, in Bed
After Marie Howe
I’m eating cold pancakes with my hands:
…………….I can’t sleep with you poured
into every inch of me.
It’s hot. Salt slicks your upper lip.
My mug catches the light,
swallows your entire laugh.
I can’t stop thinking about the movie
we saw last night – he says marry me and she asks why.
He dies in a ditch in Tulsa.
I say, I can’t believe she didn’t love him. You, drowsy,
say: But that’s love too. I laugh as you butter
You’re allowed to be restless. I wear your sweat
like a veil. Your toes catch my heels as you turn.
Eve Kenneally is a first-year poetry MFA student at the University of Montana, originally from Boston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Wooden Teeth, Ripple, Cutbank (All Accounts and Mixture), The New Old Stock and The Sundial Review.