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Teenage Winter

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In deep-thrusted January,
this frigid air swallows our echoes
into silence.

The stars in the distance swell
with the words we can’t bring ourselves to say.
The universe shifts under the weight
of our calamity.

Wintertide comes in waves,
jeers us with its ice-slicked breath.
We are driving down an unfamiliar highway
that empties on for miles.

The never-ending horizon:
that’s how distant I feel from you right now.

I remember that night like snowflakes:
each crystallized detail immortal in my memory.

The space between your thighs hung limp,
and the distance between our bodies waned
until we devoured each other whole.

Four hundred dollars, is what the lady says.
It’s a bargain, the cheapest in the state.
Four hundred dollars for a life.
I wonder if it’s really a bargain at all.

The weight of brick and stone
doesn’t compare to what we’re feeling now.
I wonder if in prison they sell guilt by the pound,
or if they swallow their misfortunes
and carry on, day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

The car halts to a stop, we are here.
The rickety building with its flickering neon sign
of death, of breathing but not alive.

The baby won’t be the only thing to die today.

I squeeze your hand, force a smile.
You are trembling, and not from the snow.
The question looms over us like a storm cloud,
and I ask with my eyes, one last time,
before you say, yes.

We are damned if we say yes,
the shame and sorrow stacked heavy,
skin pale and shivering, not from the snow.

We are damned if we say no,
enslaved to a life of misery and poverty,
where a child can’t flourish and prosper
because how can a child thrive
when its parents are still children themselves.
The nurse in her whiter than bone uniform
beckons us forward into the sterile,
hollow room.

I ask one last time, with my eyes.
You take a breath, and nod.
I wait.

Either way, we’ll lose.

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