Kami Westhoff’s work has appeared in various journals including Meridian, Carve, Third Coast, Phoebe, Sundog Lit, Prism, Lost Coast Review, Stirring, River City, The Pinch, and Passages North. She teaches Creative Writing at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA.
On their first anniversary, they pick up burgers and fries
and go to the Samish Twin Drive In Theater.
The wife’s months away from delivery, but her husband’s
covered her side of the bench seat in plastic, Just in case.
The cover smells like rubbing alcohol, and she inhales
until it pricks the back of her throat and rolls onto her tongue.
Instead of the expected cravings, she wants only the chemical:
imagines sucking from the nozzle of a gas can,
sprinkling Diazinon onto her tongue,
pressing her lips against the rust of a used battery.
On the movie screen, a father, enraged by his daughter’s disgrace,
begs the Godfather for justice. For suffering. Her husband
grips her thigh—his fingertips smudge prints onto her slacks.
She bites into the burger, swallows without chewing.
The burger rots and rises in her stomach. She beats it back
with a swallow of soda, translates its syrupy fizz
into the hiss of bleach.
She rolls down the window. His sister’s words on the phone
bark at her from a hundred speaker boxes, You better pray for a boy.
She lifts a French fry to her mouth, imagines antifreeze tearing her gut,
singing her stomach unusable. Don Corleone promises, Someday,
and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.
The husband coughs, grabs her soda, drinks in slow gulps.
She wills the bleach to shred his throat into long strips of flesh,
but when he returns her soda, the tip of the straw glistens with grease,
the skin of his throat only marred by stubble.
There are days when she longs to be thrown
through the windshield, skin and muscle ripped
quick and clean, bones more sand than stone.
Or maybe clip a nail too far back, welcome
a terrible infection, skin purple and pusing,
poison pulsing with each beat of her heart.
She could take refuge inside the disaster,
people wouldn’t wonder what she could’ve done
to stop him. How it’s possible she didn’t know.
They’d bring her casseroles, manicure her lawn,
smack down the hornets’ nests and light a match.
Set her up with good men: brothers or cousins,
men that wouldn’t mind a wife with scars and screws,
who smelled of rotting fruit.
While her daughter naps, she sinks into these fantasies
rips weeds from their roots, shovels the moles’
eruptions of earth. She becomes the Poor thing swallowed
by the mouths of strangers as they hold doors open,
lift grocery bags from her cramping fingers. The mower clunks
and dies, refuses the yank of its cord. Her daughter cries,
awakened by its quieting. She pulls and tucks the corners
of its blanket like the nurse showed her. The baby screams—
more croak than cry—for the patient rock of her father,
her face as purple as an organ. Nothing like daddy’s touch,
he used to say when he unhinged their infant from the clutch
of his wife, slipped the tip of his pinky into her mouth,
sang to her until she was silent.