Rachel Finkelstein

Gated Away


I used to live in a boxcar outside of St. Louis.
Where the trains scatter like cattle among milkweed
and Queen Anne’s lace. Where everything had one
last shot to prove itself wild. What I liked best about
those days was the way we used to forgive. The boys
and their wet forehead curls, their fingers damp, smelling
of mildew. Their sleeping bags, soft side split open like
a dead blue animal. I remember standing outside in my
fake silk nightgown, watching the moon light me up
like a bulb. The highway that moved me in and out
of applause.


Ohio was larger than its name. I wanted to experience air
for the first time again like an astronaut does in outer space.
I read one time at school that the most beautiful is a long “O”.

When I let it out of my mouth I got as swollen and stretched
as Ohio: two truck stops, twenty dollars, one ride home.


Like a damn dog. Like the consistency of the alphabet, one
letter always after another. Like an X, days marked off on a
calendar. He didn’t believe me when I said I was left-handed
but he believed the frying pan. When dirt settles I find that
everything has a place. I put the pan back above the stove.

I think about:

-Baseball stadium angels,
how you could hear them at night singing.

-The messed up electric Claussen’s billboard,
a pickle that flickered like a green rain cloud.

-The track of the door that always felt good
and cold, how I never minded sitting on it.

Eyes as white as mine.


I’ve read in books about other countries but can’t

see them in my head. The flood that came in the
spring made my brain tender. The water, surprisingly
warm. Who comes after derailed cars, the coal left
in the bottom. Train yard ghosts have gotten harder
to see. I caught one lifting a skirt made out of plastic
bags over her shoes; I see her float to the moon.

return to SHAMPOO 38