The Haunt of Streetlight Haloes - Ainslie Campbell


Sidewalk chalk bakes into the searing cement,
faded pastels and colorful fingertips, smeared
on dirty blue jean shorts, a ring of chocolate
ice cream around a gaping sticky pink mouth.
The silent buzz of August, the melancholy,
the ruin, the rot of apples falling
like dead bodies, swollen,
eaten from the inside out.

Flies groping slowly across the grain,
drunkenly dancing last-minute
waltzes along the windowsill.
The graceless sweat on the neck of the
lean, browned-by-sun girl sprawled
in the dirty cotton sheets,
t-shirt down her shoulder,
and holding a cigarette lazily between her fingertips.
Dirty and glamorous, queen of the prairies.
Insignificant boys move above her, suck
indigo bruises on her thighs.
She thinks of the heat-stricken flies,
wings pulled off,
motionless.

When the blinds are flipped,
as the sticky heat of afternoon
melts into the confusion of 5 pm,
sunbeams of dust
float down gently on unmade beds.
Sheets which are thick with the scent
of aching desperation and sweat,
grasping hands, dry mouths,
quick,
before the rain comes.

The one-street town, incandescent and
diseased with the incessant thudding
clock hands of a Midwest summer.
Farmer boys in Nirvana t-shirts stand
behind grimy Formica countertops
gum snapping like pistols, fingers twitching.
Behind the 7-Eleven, they chew on cheap cigarettes,
the ones their mothers smoke like candy,
blue ghosts like refugees in their lungs.

A gray and dizzying mundanity, this fear of
the town which birthed her
and then stifled her.
This sits behind her ribs, it gnaws at her,
This quiet haunt, seeping
like a dust storm, under the door,
through the windows, even when she stuffs
old rags into the gap,
ties a wet handkerchief
over her mouth and nose.
She can see it in the heat waves rising from
the cracks in the road
which has not been re-tarred since 1973.
The way prairie weeds grow
in the driver’s seat of the tractor
sitting at the corner of a cornfield road and nowhere.
She reads her palm-lines like a roadmap of the
highways which lead away from this place.
She follows highway 14 up the line of her thumb.
She allows wildflowers to bloom in the spaces between her teeth.