SUGAR STACK, SKYBABY As kids we’d fuck around in the abandoned mine like it was a vintage schoolhouse. My hair both hair and kerchief, sometimes also our flag. Dashed with thistles for its stars. I couldn’t tell you how to get back there except accident. Road now paved at least on surveillance footage. My hair remains an attic filled with boxes from previous tenants. A rehabber tore down the old corner store. Rebuilt an even older corner store but with vinyl-wood flooring. We used to ease ourselves into a giant oak rotten at the roots. Once I demanded to be dragged back to the surface by my hair. Which is to say not by someone pulling my hair. Constant fringe of cicada noise, truck brakes, forty-watt bulbs. Window blinds splayed in pines. Teenagers chased something furred and blurry along the river. Everyone had a favorite smokestack on the horizon. Gave them sexy names like cigarette, loverboy.
VANISH ON COMMAND My head was an old mill we used to break into down by the creek with its nonstop grind while people unzipped tents downstream, tabs settled for the night. Gold Chevy Nova, cigarettes that smelled like burning glass tubes, an old woman washing dress socks inside out. I held my head like a basket I did not own, the tentative way you drive a lover’s truck when you’re not supposed to be inside, counting bug bites or minutes. Vanishing on command. Many evenings the sky was a blood clot. I believed I could bite through my lip easy as closing hands around a field sparrow. But the mill throbbed, oblivious.
From the Author: “Sugar Stack, Skybaby” and “Vanish on Command” are from a new series of creepy little Midwestern poems that feature, in some way, my head and my hair. Is that weird?
Mary Biddinger’s newest poetry collection is Department of Elegy (Black Lawrence Press, 2022). Her poetry and flash fiction have recently appeared in Bennington Review, Crazyhorse, DIAGRAM, Gone Lawn, and Thrush Poetry Journal, among others. She lives in Akron, Ohio, where she teaches and edits the Akron Series in Poetry at the University of Akron Press. She is currently at work on a flash fiction novella that chronicles the adventures of grad school roommates in late 1990s Chicago.