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