Back to Issue Forty-Four

Eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos at Mom’s Grave



Scarlet feathered orange, neon yellow, the flames
on the bag make burning look fun. It’s hard to tell
if Chester’s overcome by the fire—his shades hide
his eyes, his smile a kind of jawless flame-gasp,
perpetual. The tree above drips ice on my shoulder,
weepier than me. Kicked out again, I wear my goth
sensibility like a wool coat. I can just feel the snow
through my jeans, the cold an epic poem, a thing
I live in. World still unlit, no phone or laptop, this
is my place to go. Me and Mom and her stone.
full of grit, dirt-packed. I crunch a Cheeto, mull
its salty pulp. I am not sure about these terms.
My hand red raw, I crumple it back in the bag,
warm it, fish for more. I can’t picture her face
anymore, just a spectre, back turned. Linen-rot
and lilies. Her angry intellect clutched like a blade
she couldn’t swing without slicing open her own
palms. Bag empty, I suck the red from my fingers,
plunge a hand in the pocket of my coat. When I
asked if she was dying, she cried, shook her head no.
I tried, is what I tell myself. I wonder if she’d agree,
what she’d have scrawled if she’d left a note.
The snowy hills and their gray tangle of trees don’t
say a word. Kneeling in the dim, winter stretches on
unmovable, pristine. Pen out, I scrape the etching clean.


Jessica Tanck lives and writes in Salt Lake City, where she is a PhD student in English literature and creative writing at the University of Utah. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Alaska Quarterly ReviewBeloit Poetry JournalBlackbirdColorado ReviewDIAGRAM, and Gulf Coast, among others. She serves as the editor of Quarterly West.

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