the fidelity of calendars

in the year of bad but necessary decisions
a boy I would later love yelled at me
for getting into the back of a pickup truck
driven by strangers with my little sister

in Wisconsin. it wasn’t the smartest thing
I’d done to date, but certainly
the most entertaining. in the years
of drinking as the key to domestic tranquility

I tacked discount fabric to the walls
to cover the tangerine the previous tenant
had painted over the textured wallpaper. I went
to work every morning. at night the rats

would run the walls and if he were home
he might throw a shoe against the wall
to make them stop. often he wasn’t
home. I’d let them run and run. the night

a black wool dress pressed against
the windows. we slept with the windows open
because we couldn’t control the heat
in the years of constant overdraft, in the years

of mouths in stairwells, in the years of erupting
bookshelves and faces dissolving in acid
and powder my body grew a spongy,
undeliberate heart. my hands hung useless

at the ends of shrugging arms.
in the year of choosing love
over reason, I paid a stranger
to catalogue my stories while I cried

and blamed my parents. I lived above an alley
in an apartment painted yellow because it received
no natural light. it was my love’s
dream home so we lived in it. when she left

I stayed for months, counting the seams
in the concrete ceiling. listening
to the trucks empty the dumpsters
every morning, every morning.

in the year of escape by any means necessary
I recovered my accent. started
believing in ghosts again. calling them
by my grandfather’s name. in the year

of escape by any means necessary
again, I remembered my sister’s face
as we climbed into the back of the pickup
driven by strangers. the wind on our necks

off the lake, how she hesitated at the tailgate
and looked at me, how she took the boy’s hand
and stepped up and in, thinking, as I was, I’m sure of it,
we’re together. what’s the worst that could happen.

– Marty McConnell

more horrible-wonderful


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