“there was tickweed where I fell”
five exits down, on the shoulder of the highway
golden yellow scratches against epicardium
and loss finally rings bright against loss,
bladelike, (thin as coreopsis, her favorite flower,)
sharp as the intent that smithed it with bleeding hands.
and there’s a vow in the sound it makes:
it says, “I’ve been here before and will come again;”
it says, “I’ll climb;”
it says, “these roads I line came after me;
I was the first guide;”
it says, “I am a life held between trembling fingertips,
and a weapon both;”
it says, “in either shape, I am a stage of grief.’
knees buckle in roadside soil, the door alarm clicks and
it says to me, “you ran very far, but I grow
everywhere you can go.”
“you shaped me for sacrifice”
I exist in three places. In the first, I’m nine and digging a little grave for the first rattlesnake I killed. I bury it in two parts: body and shovel-separated head. I hate myself, but the dog doesn’t die. In the second, I’m four and being dragged past the rabbit hutch. There’s one less. I can’t count them but I know, I know, I know that there will be rabbit blood on blue sheets. In the third, I’m twenty-four, sitting on a park bench, and thinking about being nine and being four. I’m thinking about how I was taught to buy protection with pieces of me. If I lied about the abuse, he wouldn’t kill a rabbit. If I swallowed any feeling for the rattlesnake, I could protect the dog. They said the rattlesnake cost less, but it wasn’t the rattlesnake’s fault (wasn’t mine—). Saving the rabbits cost all of me, but I never shook the conditioning (“you’re saving them, a little hero”). I was a price. I was a price and I paid my price. I paid it without understanding the worth, the lie.
Grass and gravel crunch beneath my shoes. I’m twenty-four and saying, “No surprise I’m fucking broke.”
Isabel J Wallace is a queer writer and registered nurse working in North Florida. The swamp has left her predisposed towards ghost stories and the certainty that something is always lurking just out of sight. She’s been published in Malaise: a Horror Anthology, as well as in Smitten: this is what love looks like. Wallace has upcoming publications with Stone of Madness Press and Passengers Journal.