Black Summer

On the longest day of the year
we wait for nightfall, slouching on
your grandmother’s porch, pack
of cigarettes balanced on the arm
of your plastic lawn chair.
We smoke and watch the cars
streak by on the highway,
the supersonic whine of
engines drowning out the rattle
of insects hiding in the tall
grasses. You push your long
black hair, sticky with sweat, off
the back of your neck, and I
pretend not to notice the leonine
grace of your movements, your
long guitarist’s fingers cinching
it like a belt, cigarette dangling,
eyes closed against the heat
and the oily cloud of progress’s

When night comes we’ll move
under cover of darkness to the
field behind your grandmother’s
house. We’ll look for the star
burning like a chancel lamp.
On the shortest night of the year,
we’ll say our prayers in smoke-
shrouded voices the way your
grandmother taught us, even
though we were not the girls
tradition required, but boys, now

For now we sit in the heat,
just out of the sunlight,
watching the blur of heavy
machinery on the road.
I steal the cigarette out of
your hand, pretend that it’s a

© 2020 by Cassandra Rose Clarke

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