What I recall
is not the fire ball,
but the prinicipal's voice, disembodied as God's
on the intercom, pronouncing all the astronauts dead.
Then Shelley Marshall's mother, who stayed home all day watching television,
rushed to the classroom, mascara running,
crushed her daughter
to her chest and shuffled
her out the door.
I studied my constellations
in the restroom mirror
and did not cry.
At 3:30, I went home
on the bus, fingering
the house key hung
around my neck.
When I turned the lock,
I took a deep breath
before I pushed forward,
just like Christa McAuliffe, Judith Resnik, and all
the other girls
who walk into the future knowing at any moment
they might explode.
is a cassette tape
that's been played
and rewound, played
and rewound, sped up
and slowed down,
the best bits sought out again and again
until all the delicate darkness unravels
in kinks and snarls
on the Chevy's floorboard. My love is a bad track
that can't be played back until it's spooled back
into tight, compact blackness, carefully, delicately,
by hand with a pencil: Your hand, your pencil
Lamar Jackson claimed
he was Michael Jackson's cousin. It was 1983, and I believed him, even though we lived in Cleveland, and I'd been to his house with the gray asbestos siding and the lopsided garage.
When Lamar asked me
to be his fake girlfirend
in our grade school re-enactment of the Thriller video
in the gymnasium,
my heart turned
into a fistful of sequins.
Lamar grabbed my hand
and we ran for our lives, Kangaroos sneakers squeaking across the polished wooden floor. We screamed as our friends,
who had become zombies
and ghouls overnight,
stumbled after us, their eyes rolled up in their heads,
their feet dragging, but gaining ground with every step.
I can picture us now—
a black boy and a white girl— locking arms, turning back-to-back, up against an angry,
encircling mob. We didn't know what we were playing at.
We didn't know why
when they chased us down
it felt so real.
Gwen Hart teaches writing at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, IA. She is the author of two poetry collections, The Empress of Kisses (Texas Review Press) and Lost and Found (David Robert Books). Her poems and short stories have appeared recently in Measure, Raintown Review, and Litro.