Choose Your Own Adventure: Go South
Under a rusted water fountain
at a rest stop in Pennsylvania, you find a small jar
filled with a woven cocoon, or perhaps
the mummified remains of a rat. Birth or death,
you take it, secure it in the cup holder then drive
the day, the glass rattling—no, trembling—
within its plastic restraints. At sunset, a translucent
honey-gold fills the car, and the trees in what is now
Virginia lean in close. The elms are large as clouds.
In the motel that night, unclothed, you slip
into the indoor pool. It is heated, and lit from below
like a cauldron. Though you don’t know how to swim,
you float, the glowing water buoys you up. In that
sulfurous light, with your arms spread like wings,
you might be an airplane’s x-shaped shadow
or a child’s summertime toy. But soon, your body
collapses like a broken ruler and water fills your nose,
the tile walls suddenly snug. Always the way we notice
change, the space around us almost the same,
then not. Same, same, but different, like the moment
the elevator door finally slides shut.
You wake the next morning in the motel bed,
hair still wet. Your neck aches. Someone had curled
you up like a small animal, someone had placed
the jar on the nightstand beside you, its contents
now vanished. Or simply emptied. From your head,
a chlorinated ink-blot seeps onto the sheets.
Confess that you’re sorry. Confess that you’re not.
The transparent jar glimmers in the dusty half-light.
You continue south.
Christine Kitano is the author of “Birds of Paradise,” published by Lynx House Press. She teaches literature and creative writing at Texas Tech University. Recent poems are forthcoming in Tar River Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, and Miramar.