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excerpts from Baton Rouge


Tell me about the sensation of grace. Your body in water. Overhead, bent necks. Cracking phone wires. Shaking dust from wound to pocket and the things inside them. A silent film like rattled glass. And when our hands come together in a shape or gesture. Mirror. Thorn. Spade. In our pockets. A hunger not unlike diaspora. I flower uncontrollably against your chest.



Make a left and we’re at a mountain lake. Take a right to reach the safe place. Pink tile, free cable, wet carpet. Towels hot with chlorine and a substitute for love. The kind of hotel meant for killing. Fingers grilling on a hotplate.



I waste the long trek home thinking of surrender. I’m thinking of how to sabotage our escape. Or how many ways I can talk about my sadness like it’s real. Lizards taped to bottle rockets. Bright soldiers launched up and out like a beacon. The unexpected crunch that echoes in your head. Broke spine and a pebble of blood. Let’s not pretend these are our first kills. In the back of your bronco I’m remembering all I can about lobotomies. Summers my mother warned me about. Red skies, cracked rib, crickets singing. An inherited ache for dark haired men holding guns.



I’m making a mess of everything, I know. Water bubbling through all the holes we forget to seal. And you shouting about love from the dock. Sorry, can’t answer that. I’m sinking the boat.



Is this the migration I’m built for? Spent arms and tiny mouth? In this place I yank wires from the wall and leave a note. Or write one but throw it out. I’m in the kitchen boiling eggs. I’m in the shed spilling salt. I’m at the airport buying a ticket to wherever the fever stops. Or Baton Rouge. I’m at the gate hoping you’ll appear, so solid and with a bag of pastry. I’m lying, I guess. I don’t know. Everything I am rests at the bottom of a delta. Or the plane crashed and I’m dead. Tell me how the dream really ends.



Andrew Ketcham is a stylist in central Virginia. His work has appeared in Assaracus. He is highly allergic to raisins.