Remember that December night, when the roads 
were covered in ice, and electric light 
was strung out around all the houses on the hill?
We each ate a handful of pills and went driving 
through the suburbs. You had one hand
on the wheel, the other covering one eye 
to fight double-vision as we weaved
in and out of oncoming traffic. Still, 
we made it home, built a fire and spent 
the morning lying on the hardwood
smoking cigarettes.

Remember the boy 
whose skull we cracked against 
the asphalt after he sliced Tyler’s cheek 
straight through to teeth? Or his friends 
who sped around our corner taking shots?
We wore our violence like a heavy vest.

We never expected to live,
but we did. We turned away 
from one another, built homes  
on opposite sides of town, watched 
all our friends grow thin and stumble 
through the streets
picking at scabs and holding out palms
toward everyone who passed.

Tell me, Jesse, after they cut out
all of your tongue,
but only some of the malignant lumps,
and your wife left you 
for your childhood friend, 
and you hid away for months 
with no one and a needle,

was the pleasure, as you once wrote,
still real, like it was those years 
we spent together,
crouched around a candle-
blackened spoon? Nothing is good
as you hoped it would be.

Derek Annis is the author of Neighborhood of Gray Houses, which will be released by Lost Horse Press in March, 2020. Derek lives in Spokane, Washington, and holds an MFA from Eastern Washington University. Their poems have appeared in The Account, Colorado Review, Epiphany, The Gettysburg Review, The Missouri Review Online, Spillway, Third Coast, and many other journals. To preorder Neighborhood of Gray Houses, visit

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