I watch a cat in an open window across the street
open its mouth real wide like an unfolded map of
Northern New Jersey. It’s Christmas Eve & we’re
alone again & bored & we’re making up mistakes.
Talcum powder, olive oil, spit.
Perfume, vaseline, dust.
Nell says, kissing with the hands over the
mouth doesn’t count because it’s just for
Vinegar & Orange Juice.
Try it, she says. She puts her hands up
When we are done, we forget to throw the full jars
away & they sit behind the radiator & rot until the
new year & the stink gets bad & then worse & then
we are in big trouble.
We sob in a dark closet & the world becomes so
dark & so we are dying of shame.
Another time, it’s June & it’s the last day of
school. Tomorrow is the pool party & today I am
wearing new white shorts. I set myself down.
A python’s swollen heart.
A body is 7% blood.
In August she reads my palms & it doesn’t
help at all but she says just wait.
In September I’m still waiting. A woman wears
silver earrings & feeds her dog a turkey
sandwich. She thinks we don’t see because we are
directly at each other like looking in a mirror & the
mirror’s fogged up. But we do see & I’m burnt real
bad & Nell sings at it & I’m always waiting for
something & I don’t think that it’s this.
WHAT I’M NOT
There is a haunted undertow at The School of
American Ballet that appeals to young girls like
adolescence – shame & the deep darkness of an
apple orchard populated by plums.
I try not to weigh myself. I am skinny & I am also
full up with those plums. Sometimes, this is my
favorite thing about myself. It is sometimes my
least favorite thing.
After Nell & I left each other for separate
lonelinesses, I bought glitter eyeshadow & a blue
sequin scrunchie. I taught myself to tap dance & I
danced in her silence & in the dark street. I
pictured it. Her: in a scoop back black leotard, me:
in green tights with holes in the heels. But I am not
a particularly good dancer. I’m no Allegra Kent.
Nell is good, & she is soft like new velvet. Like
four olives & a fig roll.
She moves like a moth moves & it’s the first four
chords of Barbara Lewis’ “Baby I’m Yours,”
tinny & out of a wacked-out jukebox
& it’s so fully beautiful.
In Syracuse, I put on Lion King Band-Aids after
the bath. I string myself up in blue ribbon. The
radio on. My hair is all wet & I am yelling at her,
Here I am Nell & I’m heavy
in the central places.
In the well-lit grocery store we run to the register with a thick loaf of bread & the woman there is
wearing a blue plastic apron & well tapered pants but she is frowning & wagging her finger at us,
all shellacked with burgundy polish & we are at a loss.
In bed later under a cotton sheet cherried with pink filth & with sloppy rhododendron, Nell reads me a
newspaper story about a girl deserter & her ragdoll cat, the title of which is Girl Deserter & her Ragdoll
We look out the blue window at the dark street & the snow. A man is yelling something like small
overdue apology. I cut this into her thigh with my nail.
ZANESVILLE OHIO WITH THE LIONS LOOSE
(When Nell died I started praying to God.
I wrote it out, God, on a small piece of yellow paper
& buried it in the ground & it rained
like it always rains.)
Ally Young is a second year MFA candidate at Syracuse University and a Poetry Editor at Salt Hill. Her work has been published or is scheduled to appear in The Fairy Tale Review, The Texas Poetry Review, The Brooklyn Review, Metatron, tendernessyea, and elsewhere. Her chapbook The West and Other Mistakes was released in 2016 via Dancing Girl Press.