It would have been your birthday—
ominous,
anticipating.
I remembered
fingering the scratched
gold wedding ring
you left behind.
Mama slipped
it on my finger
before I left her
too—
a parting gift.

 

I woke to New England pines
looming behind
an open window—
unfamiliar cold grazed
raw skin.
His watch was missing
from the mini fridge
beside his bed; I stole
his lighter and inhaled frigid,
abrupt air,
poison.
A reluctant
exhale.

 

You and I would drive
across that hapless town
for hours
Burnt Chickasaw beige past
your truck’s window blended
indistinctively, reluctant to take
shape, but you
never once
stopped.

 

Cold air shot
from the vents—
a counterpart
to the biting
winter wind—
a parting gift.
Hidden in
the pines, the suburbs
were mockingly green and
full of pathways and
farm stands off
the side of the road that
in the summertime
announced their sweet
corn and organic strawberries.

 

I made him stop with me once
to wander through eggplant violet,
radish red.
We split a cigarette
and a bag of blackberries,
watching smoke hit
the windshield; heavy music and
his Le Sabre’s wine velvet
seats stuck to flushed,
slick skin.
Purple teeth I could see with a
rare laugh.

 

Sometimes
he reminds me
of you—the scratchy
beard or how
he doesn’t hush
off-key humming or
the same stagnancy
looming in spite
of replete
desire.

 

You too never wanted
me to need
you.

 

I headed south
though you are south,
past the same empty
stands—
he would not
stop
again though we never
had anywhere to be.

Zetetic separator

—Jeni Prater is a recent graduate of Wellesley College, where she studied English lit and creative writing and led the campus sexual assault awareness group. She is currently teaching university writing skills and poetry classes in Malaysia and spending her time traveling around South East Asia and reading blissfully nonacademic books. She also has an unexplained fondness for elephants and has a sweet tattoo to show for it.

One Response

  1. Jim Hannon
    at · Reply

    Jeni, love this poem!!

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