A day apart by Kristen Gunther

In Fear and Faith – words printed on
the cotton lying light on the silent girl’s thigh
at family breakfast, a sister beside. I
remember what it was like to be her age

on a Sunday, of all days, in public
of all places to be wearing those shorts.

Over coffee and corned beef
I imagine the Salt Lake grid settling
like a net on our shoulders, gathering us in.
Does she ever pretend that she is lost?,
I think – this city is all new to me,
except for the soft-spoke stories
of my mother, who memorized the map
but still didn’t know where she was
going, and hates how I’ve come
into the west. Las Vegas, a waypoint,
was six hours ahead.

*

Everyone was asleep (and trusting me
not to be) while I gunned through
the Mojave. I felt better when
the glow – the obvious, and Enterprise,
Moapa Town, and Mesquite, and
the few miles of Arizona, and St. George,
and Cedar City, and Kanosh, and
Fountain Green, and Spanish Fork –
had sunk far off into whatever mountains
or hills those were in the dark,
and all that was bright was ahead,
the Joshua trees and their tufts
of rough spikes sliding past, ghost-colored
mice skittering across the road.

Though I couldn’t see the desert
when I put my head down, after hours
of all that, below the hunched granite
that reminded me of my second home,

there were still the yip-yowls of coyotes –
the sound rained down like a lullaby –
(surely the girls dreamed hours
before I closed my eyes, hanging
everything on those distant,
doggish howls)

 

 

Kristen Gunther is a doctoral candidate in ecosystem management and ecology at the University of Wyoming, where she also completed an MFA in creative writing. Her work has appeared in West Branch, CutBank, THRUSH, Zone 3, Fourteen Hills, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter @kristengunther.