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Meg McCarrney

ode to hedonism and hepatitis vaccines 

 

shake some salt into my tea: the acute, perverse

agony you know i’ve grown to love, a salve to scare

me into submission, make it through until morning. 

 

no pleasure’s invoked without a past begging

for its sweet relief; indulgence is the contingency plan.

 

vermouth delivers a gut-punch and some primal

instinct kicks in: pupils dilate, cheeks flush. a glimpse

of who i might’ve been: hard and sharp like a spade

driven firmly into virgin soil, enunciating the “k” in fuck,

dress hiked up just enough to show some peach fuzz.

 

he’s a sucker for the first signs of summer

and i know it—call it a wounded woman’s sixth

sense. i know when the vacancy sign is on.

 

it’s a desperate scramble, lunging for the devil i know:

a few glasses of tanqueray down, predictably sloppy, flashing ones

and twos at the cards table to anyone who will look my way. 

 

no match for the sharks— i can’t keep my composure.

far from prom queen, i’m the common fool on the boys’

bathroom floor again, crawling around in a drunken stupor—

wet elbows, skinned knees, puppy-dog eyes gazing under the stall

doors—looking desperately for what i’ve already lost.

you’ve stopped going to birthday parties

 

you bite your nails to the beat

of songs on the radio, close your eyes

and wait for the other shoe to drop—

instead, an anvil falls through the ceiling

and lands at your feet.

 

nobody cares whether you’ve made it five days

without thinking of the sea, the bridge, the car.

people call to say i’m sorry, scarcely getting

the words out before they hang up.

 

i’m sorry means that’s too bad, an admission

of the fact that your struggles are those

of an overgrown child, an incompetent adult. 

 

those little sleeping beauties with brushed hair, 

they'll never know what it’s like to be stripped naked, 

to be caught molting, halfway to neurosis,

to be known as the mortifying creature you are—

not someone who throws parties, but somebody

who would leave them twenty minutes in,

the threat of wandering eyes too imminent.

 

you’re entertaining spacemen, airheads, people

who don’t know the difference between the ground

and the wall, the one you hit first and the one

you save as a back-up plan.

 

you can’t talk to people like that, let alone trust them—

people who speak of knives as things that stab the other,

foreign struggles that could never reach their doorsteps.

 

you can’t trust people who don’t spend their lives running—

it’s all right there, in the backyard, behind the streetlight, in your chest. 

 

it’s only you, in the dark, feeling for the light switch,

just as it will be only you in fifty years, still in that room.

 

there may be people watching, but they’re bit parts

in a seventy-year long epic, gentle mouths to kiss

and warm hands to hold but people who,

nonetheless, draw a blank when you ask them

to point to where it hurts.

 

there’s a sink.

there’s a razor.

somebody bleeds.

somebody shaves.

you’re certain of it now.

Meg McCarney is a part-time poet, full-time student, and friend at Lesley University studying Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry. Previously, her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and is forthcoming/published in Commonthought Literary Magazine, Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, Oddball Magazine, Apricity Press, and Plum Recruit. McCarrney adores Jeopardy re-runs, corgis, and baking oatmeal raisin cookies.