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Elegy for candy cigarettes & the lost art of secret soap opera names

 
Nights you & I scavenged the neighborhood between
the docks & community swimming pool.
We trespassed chain-linked fences,
 
welded night to accident,
spray-painted stop signs black
& scrapbooked with broken glass.
 
We were learning the accidents of birth & tires,
that intent was dangerous. We wanted to be
beyond the limits of our lives,
 
more than girls drawing, but women who drew
men in, who knew everything ended
in flowers.
 
We spent our lives casting—even then
I preferred fantasy,
Lucky Stripe candy cigarettes,
 
the pink tips so unlike fire,
more like the burn of lipstick than flame.
I didn’t know how things worked,
 
that wives filled in the details
of their dead husbands’ affairs.
What truths deserve to be protected?
 
I remember one October night, we smoked
our glow sticks the only way we knew how,
little nibbles & big swallows,
 
as if our throats craved the obscurity of smoke.
Maybe worshipping threat was the only way we knew
to be saved. Maybe we baited firetrucks
 
because when a red van pulled alongside
& a man in a ghost mask leaped out,
we screamed the way only blood can.
 
Then we ran the way our mothers taught us.
The truth, one soap opera diva to another,
is that we jumped, but we jumped in.
 
The metal felt sure in its criminal enterprise,
more sure than the masked driver with wide brown eyes,
less sure than the asphalt beneath the tires.
 
How to say, we dived into a stranger’s van?
How to say, we were disappointed they didn’t torture
& kill us? Only in soap operas can
 
Delene Brookvalley say, hurt us please,
to Chantilly Mountaincrest & not be ashamed.
& now I know chaos is what happens
 
when one of us renegotiates a mutual story—
somewhere in between those van doors sliding open,
our need to bleed, & home,
 
we fled as masked men chased us,
                    we fled as masked men.
 
 
 

Kara Dorris is a PhD candidate in literature and poetry at the University of North Texas. Her poetry has appeared in The Tusculum Review, Harpur Palate, Cutbank, The Tulane Review, and Crazyhorse, among others literary journals, as well as the anthology Beauty is a Verb (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). Dancing Girl Press published her chapbook, Elective Affinities, in 2011. Her second chapbook, Night Ride Home, was published by Finishing Line Press, in 2012. She is also the editor of Lingerpost, an online poetry journal.