January 31, 2010

Laurie Junkins

MIDWESTERN GOTHIC

That frigid Wichita month hangs
in my history like a smoke-darkened
painting—all tight-lipped Presbyterians
and dormant cornfields frozen beneath
the iron gray slab of January. I was trapped
in a rusty carbuncle of a travel-trailer
stuck like a pimple on someone’s winter
field, a landscape slapped flat by God’s hand.
Each night my father and his wife belted out
’70s pop standards billed as Foxfyre,
in a month-long gig at The Candle Club.
In my eight-by-four bunk, I stared
out a tiny porthole at the Kansas tundra
glittering in moonlight, a bedazzled spread,
and listened to the scritch and thump
of rabbits copulating in the glow
of the heat lamps that warmed
our trailer’s plumbing. Exiled from Denver
and my sixth-grade classroom, I read and re-read
Heidi, made a week-long project of peeling
the price sticker off her face
printed on the cover, scratching away
each gluey shred until my thumbnail
softened and bent inward. But she wasn’t
pretty after all, and then I lost her
somewhere in that 160 square feet
of Kansas winter, so I filled hours
with Xeroxed worksheets and textbook
math, peering at the road outside
for February, as if looking for thaw.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009

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