Girl by featured artist Lora Mathis
Summer’s sweet rot creeps in when
the carnival rides begin to shoot up
like thirsty weeds. And children’s faces
are sticky with rainbow sprinkles
as they bike to the park, the damp air
hanging thick with cotton candy sugar.
The boy on your arm has green eyes
that flash like a dizzy arcade. You sit on top
of the Ferris Wheel, and hold your breath
while he kisses rose petals into your neck,
your sunburn shy beneath black bikini strings.
You watch the fireworks from an empty dugout,
his head in your lap. He is a Skoal can
full of cherry stem knots and you are lying
to your mother about where you’re sleeping
tonight. You sneak into the abandoned
funhouse after dark, sweat dripping hot
off your chest. It sticks to the warped mirrors
as he presses his body against yours.
He loves you and you know this because
he scrawls your name across the cracked
jewel case of a mix-tape and holds your
hand in the car. Your heart is a scrap
of perforated tin. He is a junkyard
of promise, and you are a morning
glory, wilting under his open palms.
She uses quarters to pay for shiny stacks
of Cosmopolitan, hoards a handful of lace
thongs at the bottom of the dresser drawer.
She bakes her History teacher cupcakes,
licks the frosting off the spoon, slips her
phone number under the wrapper.
She sits at the right study hall table,
next to the navy blue football helmets,
this season’s most expensive Ugg boots.
She dates the boy who plays guitar, French kisses
between AP Biology and AP Lit, shoves his back
against the locker with her push-up bra.
She won’t tell him about your basement
party, how she wrote your research paper
in exchange for a water bottle full of vodka.
She giggles at all of your jokes. The ones
about the angry zit on her forehead.
How you think her nose is too large.
She scribbles each calorie into a marble
notebook, pinches the skin that hangs
over the waist of her skinny jeans.
She won’t tell how you pinned her wrists
to the floor, bit her earlobes red, the threatening
slew of text messages in the morning.
She hides the cigarette burns under floral
scarves, counts out six carrot sticks
and places them in a brown bag.
She stays back after class to ask the Health teacher
hypothetical questions about assault, what if
I was drunk? What if no one believes me?
She makes you turn your headlights off
then park the car three blocks away, tip-toes
past her sleeping mother, locks the door behind her.