"Riding Shotgun," "Burn Off," and "Contagion" by Wanda Morrow Clevenger

Categories: ISSUE 02: Billie

Riding Shotgun
Ancient history, the time I did weed; Patti coaching
"don't inhale, just swallow the smoke – same difference"
and Mom was right to worry I'd fall into the wrong crowd,
traipsing around after dark, not going straight to the dance
and straight home.

Patti made a criminal of me, cross-legged on her '70s shag.
Candles glowing. Fleetwood Mac wailing do it do it do it.
And she dissed me for liking the band--Mac yesterday's
high--but the vinyl spun and the weed passed regardless.

And Patti expected to dis a fumbled first toke too, until
the guy on my left put his mouth over mine and blew.


O Typekey Divider


Burn Off
I'm not one bit sorry for seeing for myself his matchbox
across town bought through homestead monies and
left to his son, the younger one in-house. Brother to sister
I neither knew, half-siblings to two more and we four more
--all incidental burn off.

Meeting was awkward for every reason including
he looked a stick figure near collapsed into kindling.
He felt inclined to stir the pot, ladle from his side
of the table should I have been fed my entire life
on false information. Between pulls on a thin cigar
he recollected a man with a gangrene leg and how they
could smell this death coming a mile away.

And it was a hell of a thing to say how he heard tell,
at the corner bar I'd make guess, what a cat-about
I became but he didn't use that word or any other, just
implied something he couldn't possibly know about
a girl so coolly exhaled.


O Typekey Divider


I hated the manipulation that stuck us
with the rat trap, trashed by a hapless
drunkard because his wife checked out
with a plastic bag wrapped head; bullet
blowing flimsy seams to smithereens.

And how self serve reveled in reload and
jealousy aimed and moronic mindset
blew the whole damn thing to smithereens;

we might all survived had hate stopped
at taste not swallow.


--Poems by Wanda Morrow Clevenger
--Background photo by Sarah Edwards
--Foreground photo by Misti Rainwater-Lites