June 13, 2018 >

June 13, 2018 >

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Reasons You Left the Border State

by Brittany Von Hoene

Maybe you cross a garter snake devouring a toad.

Maybe when you circle back an hour later, they’re still locked in a half-swallow, neither gaining ground.

Maybe you live on a flag lot.

Maybe you follow the creek to the bottom.

Maybe from the street, no one can hear you.

Maybe you wonder if all the woods in the Border State are connected.

Maybe when you’re born, mama quits the gig at the radio station.

Maybe you grow up in a town you can’t find on a map.

Maybe the sign says – Welcome to the Friendliest Town in America.

Maybe a stock sign.

Maybe business cards with a sample logo.

Maybe it’s more like a litter than a family.

Maybe you and the sun melt crayons to the vinyl backseat of the Camry.

Maybe one night you hear it crash.

Maybe it’s nose-first in the woods.

Maybe mama forgot the emergency brake.

Maybe mama finds you in the garage with your Barbies.

Maybe she sees the raccoon first.

Maybe dad is at work so she calls the neighbor.

Maybe he comes over with his shotgun.

Maybe he pumps three shells into concrete.

Maybe he asks to keep the carcass.

Maybe you scream – There’s a cottonmouth in the water!

But maybe you call it something else.

Maybe no one panics.

Maybe you flip rocks in the creek.

Maybe it’s sewage runoff.

Maybe you pinch crawdads.

Maybe you can hang by your knees.

Maybe your ponytail can play with gravity.

Maybe your body reacts to poison ivy.

Maybe swelling.

Maybe fluid, a rash.

Maybe a kid on a backpack leash.

Maybe an infant in a hamster ball.

Maybe mama schedules a delivery for two weeks after the due date.

Maybe silky sludge at the bottom of a pond.

Maybe adolescent blue gill plopped into an industrial bucket.

Maybe their skin is thick and hooked like a shark’s.

Maybe mama watches All My Children.

Maybe you have strong feelings about Susan Lucci by osmosis.

Maybe you live according to principle.

Maybe you are gullible.

Maybe when mama finds Barbie and Ken kissing naked on the back of the couch, she reads you a book about seeds turning into plants.

Maybe you never learn about inside voices.

Maybe mama glues herself to the OJ trial.

Maybe a blood-stained blonde in fetal position.

Maybe a crumpled body at the end of a walkway.

Maybe you want to apologize to everyone you've ever met.

Maybe a lisp lands you in speech therapy.

Maybe you can’t remember the sessions.

Maybe you can picture the tiny room.

Maybe after kindergarten, the lisp is gone.

Maybe you can’t take a girl seriously when she can’t even pronounce her s’s.

Maybe you’re beautiful enough to be discovered at the mall.

Maybe memorization.

Maybe repetition.

Maybe your family’s favorite priest asks your brother to consider the seminary.

Maybe you wonder why he doesn’t ask you.

Maybe you remember.

Maybe you betray your roots in body.

Maybe you are lean, tanned, milk-fed.

Maybe your vowels have extra syllables.

Maybe you play house.

Maybe you are always the daughter.

Maybe – because you are pretending – you make up who you look like.

Maybe it’s always Kelly Kapowski.

Maybe you’re supposed to research your patron saint.

Maybe you’re named after a British starlet and a region in France.

Maybe mama is named after St. Thérèse, the patron saint of writers and mystics.

Maybe that’s when you discover Saint Sebastian.

Maybe ropes, arrows, loincloth.

Maybe it’s a political act.

Maybe red with five percent of precincts reporting.

Maybe you’ll never secede.

Maybe there’s a spot in your heart you want to quit whining about.

Maybe if you ignore it, it will go away.

Or maybe you know that the tongue is the body’s strongest muscle.

Maybe you press it against your incisors while you sleep.

Maybe dad sells cardiovascular equipment.

Do you hear that? Dad works with hearts.

Maybe you’re afraid to lose everyone and you’re also afraid of dying.

Maybe mama has a daughter who thinks herself built of broken things.

Maybe a childhood field trip to the petting zoo.

Maybe mama milks the goat then kicks the bucket.

Maybe you can’t make butter.

Maybe grandma doesn’t know her own biscuit recipe.

Maybe someone has to watch and write it down.

Maybe you bleed in your cousin’s pajamas.

Maybe you leave them in the corner.

Maybe when asked if they are in love, Charles follows Diana’s quick — of course — with — whatever in love means.

Maybe a cat hunts.

Maybe you find a mole she mauled.

Maybe she is precious and dying.

Maybe when you reach for her soft belly, the red lips part.

Maybe yellow teeth in finger meat.

Maybe death.

Maybe an overactor fainting.

Maybe a cooling body in a small baggy.

Maybe a hermit crab survives the ride home from the beach.

Maybe a week later, a long body slides limp from a seashell, spirals through the plumbing.

Maybe you carry a bucket of fish in cloudy water to your neighbor’s tank.

Maybe sediment.

Maybe a storm front.

Maybe the puppy has fleas.

Maybe you spank the specks on his rump.

Maybe he bites you on the chin.

Maybe it doesn’t break the skin.

Maybe you watch dad beat him from the window.

Maybe your vet can tell if your lizard has two penises.

Maybe a dog paces a path in the backyard.

Maybe you’re tailing her when she bolts.

Maybe when she darts under the truck’s front tire — you can see that her spine is visibly broken.

Maybe a hamster chews through the lid of her cage.

Maybe you find her days later in the pantry.

Maybe she mates with your brother’s hamster.

Maybe you don’t see it.

But maybe you notice her getting fatter.

Maybe one night – you find translucent babies.

Maybe in the morning – there’s a splatter in the corner.

Maybe mama has blood on her lips.

Maybe a pair of dogs have levers.

Maybe only the first dog’s lever stops the shock.

Maybe the second dog paws her lever.

Maybe once.

Maybe over and over again.

Maybe the pain won’t stop.

Maybe the second dog balls in the corner.

Maybe the same dogs are in a cage with a partition.

Maybe the floor beneath them is shocked.

Maybe the first dog learns quickly, jumps triumphantly over the partition.

Maybe the second dog balls in the corner.

Maybe for Christmas, your brother gets a bb gun.

Maybe you get your first pair of steel-toed boots.

Maybe a sticker on your window so the firemen know where to find you.

Maybe masked men in your bedroom.

Maybe when the therapist asks about your suicide note, you say you wrote it but you didn’t mean it.

Maybe he believes you.

Maybe garter snakes give birth to live young.

Maybe a Halloween in midriff.

Maybe a boy in the driveway honking for you to run outside.

Maybe nights spent listening to boys compare speaker functions and prices.

Maybe you ask a gynecologist for a copper IUD and leave with a ring of hormones to rest against your cervix.

Maybe you paint your walls skin peach.

Maybe you cook like a bachelor – plastic bottles of dried seasonings.

Maybe you are willing to do battle with a constant stream of – why aren't you who you used to be.

Maybe people believe you – and you become – aloof, snobbish, kind of a bitch.

Maybe it’s more like dad cutting that tree down – the one that shaded your bedroom window.

Maybe it's stacked on the driveway in pieces.

Maybe this is about the things you swallow.

Maybe you tape your mouth shut.

Maybe it’s a slow process – piece by piece.

Maybe you feel a fire in the solar plexus.

Maybe when you peel the tape away – you find a relief sculpture of the lower half of your face.

Maybe you see the Milky Way for the first time.


Brittany Von Hoene is a Kentucky-bred Scorpio who lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. She is an editor of The Stay Project.