The air is dry, here,
in the plunging neckline
between blue mountains.
The whippoorwills have left
the trees, like the ridged elm leaves
and pale dogwood petals I used to collect
as a child. This side of Monongahela
stays quiet, save for the sound of passing cars
and the steady hum of my air conditioner.
Heaven smells like red clay after a rain,
feels like uncut grass itching sunburned legs.
Sounds like boots slurping summer creek water.
Here and now, I hide beneath my blankets,
blindly following the subtitles on the television.
It’s easier to watch the lives of others
than ask myself to make one.
I can’t tell the difference between my skin
and the future, the unknowns
spreading across my body like
the freckles I inherited from my mother.
Though it’s mid-February, I leave the air on
to keep myself in bed. The logic of staying put
lost on everyone but me. The world isn’t safe
out there—all sprawling hills and valleys
just waiting for me to stumble through them,
knowing I’ll find myself lost
in the only land I’ve ever known.
Summer nights here smell of wet sod,
hot like the thick of an attic.
The Appalachian air vibrates
with heavy stillness,
symphonies of unseen cicada wings
beating in place, keeping time as they hover
sleepily between the grey
of the sidewalk and evening fog.
I hear a few felled bodies crunch
beneath my feet walking home.
Normally, I try to avoid them.
I feel bad sullying their empty shells, but not
tonight. I think, instead, of how long it's been
since I’ve not been disappointed.
If there is a moon I am not looking for it.
My feet take me down this gravel route home
every time. Fireflies float effervescent
between the tips of high summer grass,
dipping in and out of sight
until I close the front door and they disappear
Amanda Gaines is an MFA candidate in CNF in WVU's creative writing program. She was a poetry editor for Mind Murals, the Eastern Region's literary journal for Sigma Tau Delta, and is the nonfiction and co-poetry editor of Into the Void. She is also the new nonfiction editor for Cheat River Review. Her poetry, nonfiction, and fiction are published or awaiting publication in The Oyez Review, Straylight, Gravel, Typehouse, The Meadow, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Dewpoint, Up the Staircase, Rouge Agent, and Into the Void.