Lord, I tried to be good with my quotes,
scraped country from my tongue, penned opinions
on craft, theory, being. I dropped names—
even now they perch ready—and spoke codes,
ate small plates while playing just a bit dumber
than whoever wore the blazer. I’ve read them
all already, read them and still fallen.
The volumes of my days have changed. I decline.
Let a man size up my banana box
of books and pass me the value in cash.
I’ll take what I can get, then spend it fast
on coffee and starchy food. Let’s call it
communion, lord. Let’s call this surrender.
The end of trying, it’s being born again.
All our parties are fires
on someone’s cousin’s property
at the end of unlit dirt roads
rutted deep from mudding
or that stretch of beach near the line
where town cops and the sheriff overlap
and neither ever bothers
Tonight’s dark with clouds
The south wind confuses waves
until the lake doesn’t know what to wreck
We’ve got a fifth of something flammable
and nowhere to be
Me I’m full of ghosts to burn
That guy with the Mustang who wouldn’t take me home
My 24th year from front to back
My Spanish teacher’s tongue
What I heard about myself when I knew I shouldn’t listen
Bras that were never for me
Hours I spent using the wrong end of the pencil
Whatever you got babe
throw it in and watch
We all turn young in smoke
When the rogue wave rose
to its highest rose to its utmost
shards of slate sheared off
iced and graveled her shock-blind face
She knew an option must exist
but it was like a word she’d forgotten
when most needed a sound skittering
loose from others
not the thing itself—
and when peak gave over to avalanche
when the waters’ plates slipped
when all the earthy metaphors when they too withdrew
she knew then
but too late too late
Jessica L. Walsh is the author of two collections, most recently The List of Last Tries, as well as two chapbooks. In addition to Stirring, her work has appeared in Tinderbox, RHINO, Rogue Agent, and many more journals. She teaches at a community college outside of Chicago.
Jessica’s work previously appeared in July 2018.