The place smelled like rust,
from pipes overhead.
It was hell when you got that scent
up your nose, when the smell
settled in your mouth.
There were no locks on the door,
so anyone could enter, all.
Old paper boxes, clumped newspaper
grew mildew and something else,
that clung to our hair
for days after.
Fungus grew, black and green,
in my lungs after a night
underground. It creeped, thrived.
It grew soft hyphae
that snaked through my veins,
rooted, and then threaded-out
through my pores
that I’d need to shave soon.
It was a nighttime place.
Our elbows touched nervous in the dark,
sharp on rough.
We whispered sleepy apologies.
Our skin was cold and sticky
beneath cheap cotton, polyester blends,
bedclothes from the dollar store.
We hoped no one would
cut us out of them
before night’s end.
We wore clean underwear
and dressed for death, like always.
There was static on a battery radio
that squelched some bad reception,
AM some tinny country twang
about whippoorwills and liquor.
Men and women.
Plastic flashlights twisted out dark;
the batteries inside were ancient and coated
with a greenish sheen.
The old women flapped their hands,
panicked. They talked,
but I listened to my heartbeat
like the sound outside
that was like a train, always like a train.
They said it sounded like a train.
It was a joke—depending
on how it was said, who said it.
It was stupid, repeated,
repeated until it had no meaning.
We had ridicule ready for ourselves
before anyone else had the chance.
My teeth ached during lightning flashes.
We counted thunder claps each storm.
Static felt like chewing tin foil,
while we waited for the rumble,
waited for the flashes
to charge the air to spark.
Each spring, the sky ripped-open
and sprouted dark, whipping tails.
We ran under the eerie calm,
inside the spinning air.
We squinted against the slap, the prickle
of sideways rain and licked our lips,
tasted the iron in what fell
and sought crowded shelter
from the killing storm.