I know this noxious aroma of poverty—
I remember the days I didn’t fear it,

how it wafted through my window
and seduced me in my bed, how I crept through

its dimly lit streets, the siren wails of women’s screams
puncturing me, how I’d knock on trailer windows

for the boy I loved, whispering, as if my voice
could disturb something fragile, like his mother,

like her vodka-induced slumber, like her cigarette
still smoldering between her knuckles, like the smoke casting

the shapes of all my demons. It’s been years
since anyone has held me. It’s almost like I imagined

those cold blades of grass on my back, the chaotic
constellations I could never trace, the boy, tethering

me to this world, and how we thrashed.
I tell myself now it was because we knew we were caged,

but the truth is we didn’t know anything else. The truth
is I’m not that girl anymore. I’m digging my nails

deep into my skin because some memories infest
and feed. This skin isn’t even the skin the boy touched.

I shed that skin just as I shed that city like a moth-eaten
coat, and I traded it for a fear of this stench,

the gut punch from the sight of meth-addled men
stumbling over trash cans outside my window,

the lightning bolt of anxiety that rips down the spine
at the clamor of police cars, the chorus of crickets,

that thunderclap that could be a gun or
a wind whipped door on loose hinges

flung open by a girl who wears this night
and all these people’s shadows like a corset.





Anne Champion is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013), The Good Girl is Always a Ghost (Black Lawrence Press, 2018), Book of Levitations (Trembling Pillow Press, 2019), and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, 2017). Her work appears in Verse Daily, Tupelo Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Salamander, New South, Redivider, PANK Magazine, and elsewhere. She was a 2009 Academy of American Poets Prize recipient, a 2016 Best of the Net winner, and a Barbara Deming Memorial Grant recipient. She currently teaches writing and literature in Boston, MA.




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