Poking Tar with Popsicle Sticks
by Jeannine M. Pitas

Summer like sticky salt water taffy.
Dog Days. August. You walk with
Tracy, her face a crowded map of freckles;
you search for praying mantises behind the
garage. It's been three weeks since your mother
left. She didn't even leave a note. You tell Tracy
how you want to fast forward eight autumns, pack a car
and hit the road. “You're crazy,” she says. Inside
the house your Dad is drinking beer. When she
takes your hand you remember being four or five,
sitting on this same soft grass, waiting for butterflies
to land on your blouse. Her kiss tastes like the blue
popsicles you just ate, the juice still running over your hands.
You run up to the driveway, poke the bubbling
tar with the sticks, tracing hearts and happy faces.
Until your Dad appears in the doorway.
“Don't do that,” he says. You lower your eyes
and turn toward Tracy. As always,
she is already gone.

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