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By CL Bledsoe

Winter, driving the gravel roads I almost
died on when I was 17 and stupid
enough to think life was worth dying for,
and ice was a playground. That was
a lot of cars ago, worlds and years.

I knew a girl who made it the next year.
We were eighteen, seniors, and almost free.
It wasn’t ice that got her, it was drink
and the night. The cops found her brain halved
from the windshield, the other girl in the passenger seat
screaming through bloody lips. But no one remembers
that one’s name or the father of the child that supposedly
lost its life and it’s mother that night.

I remember the dead girl’s calves,
her breasts hopping beneath her shirt as she walked
the corridors of high school. I remember speaking
to her occasionally in the hall, and her speaking back.

I drove those roads for years. They snake from
the high school up Rabbit Road, then veer off,
loose their tar and wind around the landing strip,
the old cemetery no one went to because
it was safe, then across the highway
to the cemetery south of town where
the Satanists were buried. Ghosts sprang from that one
like grass, because it wasn’t hallowed ground,
or so kids said.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaWe followed
those roads in every direction, pacing
out our home like rats. They looped
back on each other, circled through
the wilderness so that we could drive
for hours and come out on a highway ten miles
from town. South, they met up at the crossroads,
where kids went to sell their souls, or drink.

We could take them all the way to the Mississippi,
we could cover every inch of Arkansas,
the places no one remembered but the dead
and dying. Towns that weren’t on any map
other than the ones in the memories of the young;
with names like Hard Times, Cotton Plant, names that said
something about what it was to live there.

We could take them as far as we’d ever heard of,
though that wasn’t saying much. We could follow
them anywhere, but they were our home.

Stickman End of Poem

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