salem By Aryk Greenawalt

salem

midwinter piled up around you.
salem, oregon, where the sun didn’t shine. you
walked a mile in his shoes and could not take them off.
all this casual ruin. your little town of arsenic,
the stench of spilled gasoline heavy in the air, his words
like bricks on your tongue. how the snow
piled up against the window, and the light burned
in your hanging lamp. how flat his voice was
when he told you to leave. how the gifts

for the baby scattered out across the floor—
onesies, plushies, picture books: go, dog. go! oh the places
you’ll go, and you looked at it all at his feet and thought,
you were living on old miracles. the baby in your arms
wasn’t crying; your daughter watching, learning that love
meant voices howling violence through the walls.

you packed your things, the baby’s things, in two suitcases,
the clock ticking in the other room, the sun hanging like an
apparition behind thick oregon clouds. it brought images of

your husband standing trial at the stake, the hungering logs beneath; your
husband, no longer with roses tumbling out from behind his teeth but with lilies caught
in the dips between his fingers. the hanging lamp spilled sun across your husband,
alone. you looked back the whole plane ride. you held his hand
with your eyes closed.

and the baby didn’t cry, not once.

By Aryk Greenawalt

Biography:

Aryk Greenawalt is a queer nonbinary writer studying abroad. They are deeply interested in the power that words have to impact the world, the way that prose and poetry influence society as much as society influences them.

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