The Nosebleed Year
BY AVA GOGA
Robert McQueen High School, ’16
2015 Adroit Prize for Poetry: Editors List
No angels, no handlebars, just elbows,
skidmarks, scars. We lived that summer
with our fingers in our small mouths,
like turned strawberries, unfired clay—
our bodies tadpole soft. I remember,
we didn’t know how to use our hands,
sock drawers hiding our brothers’
stolen pocket knives. Each morning
swung open like a switchblade, inside,
we found the wet and wriggling-
Minnows. Silverfish. Garden snakes
caught and kept in the bathtub. I remember.
How we slipped through time like that.
How we bled only in our sleep. I woke
to the shame of a blotched pillow, the baby fat
of my cheeks stained, face the color
of a rusted out car. That summer
we wore spit beneath our band-aids,
threw soda cans into the street
to get them to explode, then sucked
the spraying sugar, the sharp edges,
anything to prove we were still
made of sweetness and heat. I remember
how each day closed like a tongue
pressing the roof of a mouth,
how we found that newborn fawn,
motherless, naked, torn over asphalt
like the smear of a comet.
In elegy, my brother dipped the body
in gasoline and laid it down in the driveway
where the neighborhood kids gathered.
We knew, somehow, every day of our lives
had led up to this; the smoke drawn and purged
from that curled form, that curled form, glowing,
the martyr of our softness.