Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Alison Auch

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

(Trigger warning: sexual assault)

I’m trying to think of a beautiful word,
one that goes in front of train but in back
of hot night, fourteen in white shirt, was it
a white shirt? And a word that does more
than describe the candied-hot seat of
the train, the whistling of the train as it
sped, then ebbed, what word? Was it
just beauty itself? All beauty that held
itself like handfuls of beach glass in front
of that train and its clean-sticky floors,
in back of the night and its sweating trees.
What word?

Once there was beauty in front of that train,
in back of that night, despite all the desperation
that had got me there, in my white shirt, was it
a white shirt? With white cotton straps? And a slightly
pocked back, with long tangled hair, what beautiful word could describe
what went before me and what followed me?
Was there really
ever a word before or after, in front or behind?

Then the train stopped. Was that the end of it all?
Fixed like a camera at the end of the line,
all motion ceased in a freezer of time. The
beautiful word’s in an icy-hot cube in the back of a
box. Because here’s where I saw you, all
swagger and cool, much cooler than any
word frozen in time, competing, pulling
in front and behind, you swam it all,

it was your sea, I was your chum, the train was
long gone. My stomach grows thick as I search
for that word while you circle me circle me
ever shrinking the loop, ever shrinking the
margins for breath, making me suck down
drink, echoing off even the tiniest blades of
grass as we sat, the train long gone.

My shirt, was it white? I may never know.
What came before? What came after? What word?
How much did I die? Which parts of me were
already dead? I may never know. The train was long gone,
and I had no words as your friend drove me home,
there was no beauty in the back of that car,

as you forced my head down, and I nearly died,
no I died, I did die, but how much I don’t know,
I wanted the hot-candied seat of the train, the
indemnity of feet flat on the ground. Where was
the potential for beauty, if not before then after, after
the train, bent into the night, arcing like sparks
along tracks?

I’m trying to think of a beautiful word.
Is there a word?
But I think it’s dragging in back of train,
in front of hot night,
clinging up high in those
sweating trees, smashed at the bottom of a
pile of beach glass. No, there’s no beautiful word
only fourteen, a white cotton shirt,
in back of hot night.
In front of train,
no beauty itself
just my bones
where they lie
still shaking.

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