Portrait: Woodbury, Indiana

“Portrait: Woodbury, Indiana”, “What Happens to Dealership Cars During a Hurricane” and “Aubade with the Red Door”

In Poetry Issue Ten by Paige Leland

Portrait: Woodbury, Indiana

Portrait: Woodbury, Indiana

It’s 10 am and we are unraveling crimson thread across the Midwest. We leave tread

marks on clay roads. Litter receipt paper on gas station floors to mark our passing. Talk

about all the missing we’ll be doing, all the yearning. When we close our eyes, the sky

rips open, sounds like bones breaking.


1 pm and we sit cross-legged in cloth seats. Pass the time by searching white clouds for a

sign of something divine—something to remind us most twelve-hour stretches of our

lives happen quickly.


9 pm, when the sky is dead and black and the moon is only an outstretched hand away,

we read Nacogdoches on an exit sign. We can’t pronounce the syllables so we rename it

relief. We name it Justin Bieber on repeat and Taco Bell wrappers and half-scribbled

poems on the back of knuckles. We name it only two hundred miles from home.


2 am, cicadas stick against fogged headlights. We unfold ourselves and stretch our skin,

collapse under fluorescent light. Dishes are piled next to the sink, but the mat by the door

whispers welcome home, so we close heavy eyes and say thank you, it’s been so long,

thank you.

What Happens to Dealership Cars During a Hurricane

We never thought much about drowning,

the silence of it all, the way we could float

down the Brazos, slip into the Gulf. So when

we got the call, we flooded the bathtub

with water and sank ourselves in it,

tested how long we could hold our breath.


In that tub I thought to write an ode on your back,

scrape it into your skin with my nails—

an ode to the first day of fall

in Michigan, how Texas is too far away to feel it.

An ode to the Greek pizza we ate with our fists,

the skinny sweet potatoes we sliced,

seasoned with oil and pepper.

I thought to write for the orgasms

you gave me every time you went out of town,

an ode to your dick and balls in my mouth, the fish hooks

you threaded through my lips.

I thought to make your skin a sacrifice

to the storm, an ode to the people

outside in kayaks

paddling in the street.


Instead

I wrote on the curve of your spine

an ode for the help us

in the back of your throat. The ones you trapped

in the tissue, cradled like children, tucked in

during the eye of the storm.

Aubade with the Red Door

A lock click means breath settling

into rhythm, making room

in the white sheets, turning over

the corners where you will lay

your clothes.


We’ve become the keepers of old habits,

of goose bumped skin, calloused fingers.

We have sex with our mouths closed.

You are chainsaw and scissor and gas stove.

I am leather and every strain of flower

that is dead by fall.

When the porch light burns out, you fix it

without me asking.


I cannot go back to before this was us.

I cannot go back to before the cranberry juice

and gas station vodka, before

the yellow toothbrush stains on my bathroom sink.

I cannot go back to before the electronic music,

the broken black light I swept from the cracks

of the floor.


I cannot go back

to before the five months apart,

the foreign concrete beneath our feet,

or to before I learned the thread between

your fingers and mine

cannot stretch across the Atlantic

without breaking—

About the Author

Paige Leland

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Paige Leland is a serial Cap'n Crunch eater, elephant collector and native of Mid-Michigan who graduated with a BFA in Creative Writing last December. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Chicago Literati, The Tahoma Literary Review, Glass Mountain and elsewhere. She currently lives in Houston, TX, where she is the managing editor of the new literary magazine, Goat's Milk. She plans to spend the remainder of the year writing and to pursue an MFA in Poetry next fall.