Untitled on Orange Canvas, 2016

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Are they cars or bricks that stack the overpass
with moonlight? Darkness another kind of wheat-field
gently smoldering. June
is still more humid than you’d like.
At breakfast 49 people are dead
and I am hiding in plain sight.
What a body feels when it is loved
by swirling color should be homecoming,
not drowning. Not breath lost
like it was left in a jeans’ pocket and gone
through the wash. Not oil stains scrubbed out,
the way Diet Coke lifts blood from concrete
so we don’t know we are falling.
My young sister says gay
like it’s a clogged sink and my pulse is running

like a fever. As if queer meant
anything other than light passing
through a closed window. The blinds drawn,
the sun wide open. Part of me is still
in that parked car at fourteen
and knows nothing of forgiveness. The driveway
where he screamed the prefix on my lips
into hiding. At lunch the news says
ringing phones rose up from the bodies like summer,
like lonely sirens. Bills still cost money
and the world is still burning and I am still
in that parked car. The pets that went missing before
are still missing. I am trying
to write down something about helplessness
and failing. But you know untethered.
You know. You fall asleep same as me,
in the arms of the American lullaby, every Saturday night
the question: gunshots or fireworks? and the small comfort
that it doesn’t matter either way. I am trying to pretend

that a swelling heart dirt-stamped isn’t resentment.
That to split a self into painted boxes
is careful, not lying. 49 people are dead and I am hiding
in plain sight. I want to believe someone else
will say it for me. We don’t know
what this is yet, the outline
of a smile or landfill smoke
just out of focus. Orange
crawls thick like hate or Havana booze. I want to believe
that museums last forever, that there’s more to leave behind
than the bones in our mouth. I say this as a child
who reconstructed Twin Towers from Legos
to watch the pieces scatter. That was before I knew
the debris had names. I say this
as a woman who can tack a year’s worth
of mass shootings on a map of her country
but has never faced a held gun. I am ashamed
and I am afraid. I am sad

and that is not enough.


About Erin Slaughter

Erin Slaughter is currently pursuing an MFA at Western Kentucky University, where she teaches undergraduate writing classes. In 2016, she was the winner of the Heartland Review’s Flash Fiction contest, a finalist for Rabbit Catastrophe Press’ Real Good Poem Prize, a Best of the Net nominee and a Pushcart Prize nominee. You can find her writing in River Teeth, Juked, Gravel, and the Bellingham Review, among others. She is the author of a poetry chapbook, Elegy for the Body (Slash Pine Press, 2017). View all posts by Erin Slaughter

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