Letter from Hagerstown
Lungs like black ice, the ripest age of seventeen,
all the sour smells of a basement in your mouth like mold -
wet and slippery and slick. Fuzz of the years
merging slowly to the stickiness of place
so that a lemonade tastes like 2009,
a kiss on virgin lips like a middle school hall,
cigarettes still reek of summer nights
poolside, where everyone wishes they were born in California
instead of this dead valley.
I feel myself abandoned to the years, we have not loved
each other as we should - my mother’s wrinkles
dance across my brow when I smile
and my father’s empty anger still aches inside my bones.
Days were like stars, I never thought to count,
but when they disappear so slowly
finally I see the light that lit the moon.
White sunset cools in starlings’ softest wake
White sunset cools in starlings’ softest wake,
cooing doves no longer traipse across the treetops but
I have dug this grave in case they all come flitting back -
what gentler place than here in the grass
where God can never find me - I am too small, I am too fast.
The pace of molasses sinking down into the Earth
is like the pitter patter of some terns across a shore -
I never again will breathe the salt
from the breath of a boy
or the exhalation from my mother’s wrinkled lips,
but cicadas keep me company in hibernation
as we pass these years in silence;
no creature was designed to live in such a sorry way,
yet here we are:
the backdrop against all that is beautiful,
and all that goes unnoticed is the essence
of our inconsequential lives.
Anna Louise Steig is a young Jewish writer from the Appalachian hills of western Maryland. She is currently a student at Shepherd University, pursuing an English degree with a focus in creative writing. Her other works can be found or are forthcoming in Uppagus Magazine, Cream Scene Carnival, and elsewhere. IG: @a.l.steig