Black Ice

Headlights carve open the fog

to the mountain yawning before us

a mariana trench spiraling to the sky. 

We trace promises in dust on the windows

murmured aloud, they fade between our lips. 

Ahead, tar pits bubble at the wayside but

don’t look back either, just in case

nothing’s there unless we build it. 

You can lose yourself

on these roads at night my grandma tells me

to navigate the dark

I need a light. 

So you press a match to my smoke

lock eyes draw your hand back instead

of leaning in close like you used to kiss

the cigarettes together

proxy wars have casualties too. 

We hit black ice on our way home

to each other

crashes you can’t see coming

until they’re underfoot. 

The ditch rises to meet me in slow motion

now I’m lapping at the tar

it spills down my chin & my cupped hands

supplicate please, stitch my throat back

together. Having surgically removed my voice

you let the radio play static in its place

sing along like it’s Johnny Cash

to pass the time

I will hack at

the wound in my chest

knows pain and vacancy, besides

you liked me hollow. 

Jaundiced fingernails trace the fate on my palms.

I called its path love, inevitable. Besides, 

I liked me helpless

so nothing was my fault. 

I smoked lead to fill my depleted veins

worship is the practice

of hoping it to gold. At confession

I peel skin back until

I am bare

anoint my feet with bile; I deserve nothing more

than what I am. Maybe some peoples’

life force is asymptotic –

do you call that wasting time?

Tallulah Brannigan (she/her) is a queer poet living and studying in New York. Her work can be found in Rejection Letters, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Resurrection Lit. She tweets @vaguelytallulah.

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