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American Summer
Jennifer Hurley (bio)

Kneeling on an oak chair at the kitchen table
Kat pours maple syrup over blueberry pancakes
syrup the color and consistency of motor oil.

In warm morning light, she uses the liquid’s
thickness to spell out his name, then writes
the word freedom. Freedom—the very first real

breath of it, the very first smell of it—squirms
in her slight frame, a three-ring festival to savor:
as a brown bear balancing on a giant ball roams

the breadth of her stomach, a frantic traveling
flea circus almost escapes her mouth, tightrope
walkers navigate the length of her spine. Shivers.

She thinks about yesterday, a summer day spent
in a wild, idyllic grassy field behind her grandmother’s
house, how she had tasted gasoline in his sweat.

With him she drank beer that tasted more like lemonade
and recited a David Baker poem about the fourth
of July she had to memorize for junior English.

After he had left, she sank into her childhood tree
swing and leaned all the way back, feeling soft
and smooth from the alcohol—and from him. With eyes

closed, the sun made the inside of her eyelids cherry
red as it had many times before. She now knew not to open
them yet, waiting first for a cloud to pass over instead.

 

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