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

my shirt.


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.




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.




(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.