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Midwestern air is honey clots
& red dust & great swooping birds
that block the sun, creak like closing doors.
In early December, my mother makes tart
from apple skin & the sloppy insides of wooden cacti,
boils stems in salted water, shaves dead trees.
The tart is burned every year. Clockwork.
The audience applauds.
Auburn, Indiana is berry blonde children
with moth hole teeth, hand-washed
laundry tied between trailers, husky cornfields,
concave barns, sky
blue of frozen lakes, hot breathe in 27,
skating on clear ice. A boy makes a promise
in a red pick up truck. A girl lets him pull her apart,
like onion skin. The audience thinks:
This must be the coldest winter this county has seen in decades.
In early December, gravel frosts over,
pharmacies are looted, girls like me don’t have much
to say. Mothers make tart, remember midwestern
air, peel sweet cacti, undress corn. Wait.
Creak like closing doors. Applause.
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After, my skin sagged low, a winter coat
on a pretty blue wire hanger. Abortions don’t hurt.
What hurt is the after, my mother’s coyote stare,
the red flush of my skin, the way Brooklyn bit back.
What hurt is the dirty mirror in the clinic bathroom,
the raccoon eyes, the silence of November. I did not
feel my body for two thousand days, called diners
out of state, ordered food for made up people.
I don’t like my lips anymore.
My mother’s hand a wrench around my wrist,
mean coyote eyes, forced me to stare at the sun.
I don’t like thinking about raspberries or peas
or any small, small things.
I don’t like to let down my long hair,
leave it braided, a rope to keep me attached to shore.
I leave rabbit ears on library shelves, call made up people
out of state, touch my arms but feel the inside of my thigh.
There is a grave of elephant bones in my body.
I have phantom limbs, like the soldiers who tasted napalm
in airplane peanuts, the wives who drop diamonds
in the garbage disposal after the funeral,
the mothers who lose children
in freak accidents on Ferris Wheels,
in pale blue draft cards, in clinics in Brooklyn
with smudged bathroom mirrors and dead
pink fish rotting in the sink.
Gypsy girls with bangles of fool’s gold
and tears of stained glass,
we watch you glow, blur,
a mirage by the train steps,
all molten bronze lips and moth
hole teeth. Love has a way of burrowing
into your arms, rotting yellow purple
bruise. Your fingers shake December.
Barcelona does not remember to call you back. Gypsy girls,
with dead fathers buried
between the roots of Georgia peaches, with mothers who sink
under the names of cities they’ll never go.
Gypsy girls with sprained tie dye
wrists and the reflections of dirty mirrors.
You have infants left in fire stations
and graves dug thirty years too soon. You breathe
too slowly and cry in supermarket bathrooms,
cry stained glass, hope for doves,
pull skinned rabbits from the hat instead.
Nevada is dehydrated cacti,
garden snakes with six tongues,
yellow teeth, freckles of Spanish, want,
the type of want that settles
low and deep in your throat,
the type of want that doesn’t go
away. Nevada is smoking sweetness
in a backyard of sand, pupils
like 8 balls.
My mother thinks we have
mountains behind us. She pins
her hair to the top of head, smiles
too soft, thinks about rain.
A burst of Spanish. Nevada is
want like heat, the type of heat that rusts
teeth, the type of heat thats hazy,
that blows out pupils, the type of
heat that doesn’t go away.
The state of flat tops, birds that sing
too soft, red clay sand dirt snow.
The black clouds have been gone
for too long. The state of buzzcuts
and girls with pigeon skin. They
think they belong in New York.
Doll, don’t we all.
I left my jaw with Connecticut, promised Oklahoma my wisdom teeth. My mother drives too fast, leaves a divorce in Wisconsin like road kill. My father buys cigarettes in Ohio, smuggles them into New York. He enjoys his freedoms, shows college dropouts his passport, asks if they lost theirs. I ate well in Idaho, let a boy serve me curdled chocolate milk in Iowa. I replace orange corn fields with dusty gravel sidewalk and once home , I realize how much I’ve lost.
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