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Burning Days

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We drove to Texas the summer just before I started to wear make-up.

It was an 18-hour drive from Kentucky
on a road dug into the South’s red earth,
littered with dead armadillos.
They’re just like possum, my dad told me.
Polecats, we called them.
I watched the brown spots shrinking through the back window,
counting carcasses to mark time.

It would have been nice if he’d asked me to be his co-pilot,
given me the map so that I could follow along.
He did that once, when we were driving back from Aunt Ethel’s,
and the whole way, we talked about our dream house.
He let me lean forward, between the front seats,
and we planned every inch of that farm.
He was even going to let me have chickens.
On that trip, he didn’t mind that I got bar-b-q chips
all over the backseat of his new Ford Pinto.

In Texas, there were no dream houses—
only burning days of scorpions and storms.
We stayed with Aunt Naomi, Mom’s sister.
He warned me about Uncle Paul’s lesbian sister.
“Don’t go anywhere alone with her.”
And as an afterthought, “Stay away from the Mexicans, too.”

From the back seat, I could see him
staring at the road ahead;
I was subdued by his strange topography,
his face full of wrinkled biases
and notions carved deep.

– Kathryn Cody

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