A word, then. A car that might still fail
           and the same night folded into pleats.
O pleated night,

           O moment of sun-starved glory,
I still do not believe in the reckoning.
           I still do not believe the best among

any number of alternatives. Here,
           a terrible street.

Here, the little shops shuttered in metal,
           the old ladies shuttered in parlors
and crouched in alcoves, a horizon

of downcast eyes. Here, a moonlit marsh,
           a license floating limply, issued
next year and rotted still, stamped

with your grin. I believed it. As I do
           most things. Believed the flowers
making a garden of this old car,

believed the treeline where grass dipped
           into nightfall, believed this, our greatest

           fault, the way we loved our destruction
so much, knowing all the while it would
come to this.

                       I loved it all. In return: a taste of
           a strip of crooked candlelight
two rusted pennies where my eyes might
           have been.

The end, expected so, aches the same—
           I cut it out. Your knuckles bloodied
on the bathroom sink, nostrils minced—

                       I cut it out. There will always be
another night, another car, another road
           to dip into gravel, the horizon screaming

in unwavering fury, my borderless
           terror—this is what you wanted.

Nothing reconciled. Here, a sourceless
           song, a single note

beneath the nectar.
           By morning, a thin film on
the pond, the reflected image

           of the body searching for reeds. Of
the body searching.



It was the last summer I believed you would
             live through. Virginia skylines choking

gold as we unlaced your body for the
             mountainside. And I wanted to believe

a part of you would remain there forever
             but I have since returned to empty streams

singing only the memory of blood, of a boy
             who believed they might deliver him

somewhere holy. I did not want to remember
             you for what we sought but could never

reach. I did not want to remember you
             vacant-eyed and empty-fisted,

the closest you would ever get to history.
             And yet I could not write it away:

the hollows of your cheeks erased by
             a horizon of screaming headlights,

your fingers slivering moonlight into
             spears aimed for the shoreline.

In the last moment I could not bear the
             silence, the heavy fall of your chest

and the days I still can’t speak of. Finding
             your father asleep on the minibar of

the dingy motel where we fucked the night
             before, finding your father as the answer

to a question better left unuttered. Slack
             tongue in my mouth not the most useless

thing for miles and I had nothing to offer
             but my body so I gave it, I gave it all

and watch you grapple on the surface,
             hands too slick to find traction, the thin

skin of your hip quivering beneath my
             fingertip. Watched blood swirl down

the bathroom drain, my thighs. And again
             that night I lay back, let you find solace

in my surrender, studied smoke stains curled
             on the ceiling like my ruined skin pulled

taut over ribcage, like my hands against
             your chest gone slack for this escapeless

midnight. Loss as an act of mercy. Loss as
             myself, a girl again, cutting back the roof

in search of a sky for smoke to rise to,
             in search of the first prickling of stars.


NIKKI VELLETRI is a high school junior from Massachusetts. Her work has been recognized in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and can be found in Words Dance, Kingdoms in the Wild, and elsewhere.