by Jennifer Maloney


It’s nine AM, I’m driving east,
the sun’s a bleary, peering eye,
red as a drunk’s. Clouds sulk

like bored teenagers, 
toss their heads and heave
dramatic sighs, strew
golden leaves
and garbage
in my road. I’m heading home,

at least I think I am,
was going to, 
am meaning to,
when David Byrne starts singing
and I start to fall in love

with the buildings
and the highway,
the scattered trash, 
the path of leaves. 

With the sound of my own voice
and the way I can hear it, 
alone in the car, how it hums 
like my engine,
steady and plain.

Time to banish the bullshit, says my voice, says me,
says the speaking marrow of my bones.
The clock will hold its hands for you
no more.

I want to live at the top of my lungs,
but I’m still just singing out the window.
I keep living
through all these little deaths,
but the skeleton inside me wants to dance. 

There is always a chance.
I might miss the exit. 
I might drive past the house
and not see it.

Time to banish the bullshit,
tires hiss in the rain.
Time to hold your own hands,
and let go.


I wish you’d stop
showing up in my dreams; my ex,
a glob of mustard. 
All thanks due to Mr. Dickens,
I’m not the one whose bad behavior
makes them a candidate for haunting.

Here you are again,
so tall I have to lift my head
and keep on going for awhile.
And that smile! I guess in this dream,
you’ve forgotten 
you don’t like me anymore.

Don’t fight your demons,
your demons are here
to teach you lessons,
says Bukowski the drunk,
the misogynist, but
if anyone ever needed
a punch in the nose, it was probably him.
Or you.

I want to stop pretending
that poetry isn’t fiction,
that short stories aren’t poetry, and
that your name 
isn’t stuck between my teeth
like an underdone potato. Or a line from Frost:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
what I was walling in
or walling out, and—is this wall built 
from stones
or stars? And does it matter? 
When either one’s as likely as the other
to fall?

Jennifer Maloney is a writer based in Rochester, NY. She is the co-editor of Moving Images: Poetry Inspired by Film (Before Your Quiet Eyes Publishing, 2021). Find her poetry and fiction in Panoply Zine, Ghost City Press, Litro Magazine, and many other literary magazines and journals. Jennifer is a parent, a partner, and a very lucky friend, and she remains grateful, for all of it, every day.