Carolyne Whelan

Issue #
October 3, 2017

At a Gas Station in Arizona

                           Sometimes my mother is kind to me
                 so when I see the girl rise from the shadows
at a gas station in Arizona, I pry a smile from my face
and hand it to her. I have many, though some
are broken and other forged.
xxxxxxShe is looking for money
                           so am I
                                        her hand lifts like a fog and lands
                        on my shoulder, bicep. She feels my scars and is looking
             for a sister but I don’t know how to talk to women
anymore. She is a tornado-haired earthquake and I
am a black hole in cut-offs. Because we both know
             our bodies are state property,
             she tells me about the cops who strip-searched her
                              in public, ejaculated her tampons onto the street.
                           There is nothing to ask that we don’t already have the answer for,
                                        so I take off my sandals, walk with her in the glass.

She walks me over to pet her dog, who wakes from the dust to bite her leg.
           She pokes at the tiny blossoms forming on her leg, night sky
                        in reverse.
                       She is covered in vestiges of moments
she almost escaped her body before the vortexes closed, pin prick scars
             in constellation. If I held up her skin to the light
                           it might tell us our fortunes.

If I was a better person, I would have taken her with me.
                If I was even worse, I wouldn’t feel her fingers
still tracing my clavicle, wouldn’t see her dirt-scorched eyes
                in my eyes. I want to escape our body.

                                              In a past life, women offered me blankets
                                and holiday meals. I cannot tell them I am still alive.
How many hearts must I break each lifetime, how many times my own?

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