All Hail West Texas

Tahoka skies made Caroline nauseous after. At Thriftway, I get the little pink discs of bismuth for her that don’t, I don’t think, actually do anything, wish I could do better.

Before, she used to make me drive her out of town to look at the sky. The stars here some nights look like that white, yellow, and blue photo from a beat old book about space, like NASA ghosted colors over the black night, no one having seen the work.

That’s when she got sick.

It happened when she looked up and said hey, the sky is shimmering. I said that some of the stars were binary, circling each other, and she said no you don’t understand take me to the hospital and so I did.

When she could see again she said everything was dusty, blurred; she said it was something with her brain, that she didn’t want to see stars anymore. I took her to the football field after that, safer: under the field lights I held her, AstroTurf striping soft under our bodies.

Bugs flickered in the lamps, their sodium buzzing like the sound moths hear when their lovers’ wingtips beat against one another. Her voice went, choked, and then her eyes. It was something with her brain I don’t understand–

but her fingers still talk to me,

they tell me about the emptiness in her stomach when she feels the burst of heat opening the door in summer, the half moons I find in my palms are language, our dry skin powder from all of our chatter, chalky pills on her tongue she begs me forests, caves.

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Jess Dutschmann is a writer. She originally grew up in Bergen County, NJ, only to move into a log cabin in her teen years. She attended Ramapo College and earned a BA in Literature and a concentration in Creative Writing. She has read poems and stories to audiences across the Mid-Atlantic. She is very thankful for MegaBus.