First Star

by Ryler Dustin


It is here, in the empty lot across from K-Mart, dusk falling at the cusp
of summer, that you realize you love her. She has asked you to teach her
to drive, you lied about having a license, and your mother’s Metro is not
cut out for this, how she kills the clutch again and again as you brace
your bodies against the dash, laughing. You are not cut out for it
either—how she cracks jokes with the boys at your lunch table, grinning
with one crooked tooth, hair black as volcanic glass. You cannot hold
on your tongue the name of the place she is from in Nicaragua, or the
ache the fact of her body makes in yours no matter what you do, even
when you are making love behind her mother’s leaky apartment, or lying
in the damp grass after, watching geese sign their mysterious arrow
overhead. Soon your best friend, jealous, will stop sitting at the lunch
table. Your father will forbid you from seeing her before she moves
away, but you’ll follow her to Georgia anyway while she goes crazy and
disappears into a two by two photo of her father’s grinning absence. But
blink now and you are back in the parking lot—blink and you are in the
brimming grass, wet, watching the geese neck ever on. Tell her again
they have needles in their noses, like compasses, guiding them to where
they must go. Say you can see Sirius, the first star, though you know she
is already sleeping like something crash-landed, unfathomable, from an
even deeper distance—her breasts below the coat you both share, her
wrists so defenseless that the world, for the first time, frightens you—
and you begin, in that light, to know what it is.

RYLER DUSTIN earned his MFA in writing from the University of Houston and is a PhD candidate at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. He has performed on the final stage of the Individual World Poetry Slam and his poetry appears or is forthcoming in The Southern Review, Iron Horse, New South, and elsewhere. His book, Heavy Lead Birdsong, is available from Write Bloody.