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
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 IS ALWAYS THE DREAMING THAT DESTROYS US
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.