Nineteen, with a Fireman by Elizabeth Garcia

Nineteen, with a Fireman

This is the age you shed your ideals like a seed coat
the moment you are desired. It will start

in the backseat, with root (your white looping his brown)
a tendril up the waist, and soon the body: xylem

you have reached daylight heat (he’s a Fire Man!)
and forgotten:

you are not alone.
the others (three) will stare straight ahead,

focus on Skynard twanging from the dash,
the blur of trees, the river they’ve planned on tubing down

still miles ahead. Tammy
will chatter away to His terse friends

of college courses, things to do in Tallahassee
while you (and He!) are flushed, smoldering

next to her, her frail body
snagged on adolescence like a burr,

swallowed by a too large T-shirt,
years of bathroom afternoons, dredging up

that giant salad, those hospital nights,
her mother’s squeak, her father’s boom,

till the eyes burn with the strain,
that lovely, familiar burn

of finding emptiness,
the gourd hollow,

of reminding herself
I know how to be alone.

by Elizabeth Garcia

Editor’s Note: Narrative and imagery thread through each other in random bursts, much like the confusing passion that grips us when we are nineteen. Nothing quite makes sense at that age, but it isn’t any less real for being a bit confusing.

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