Unidentified Flying Object
And to think she never would have seen it,
the blinking silver saucer gliding over the mountain
and across the low-hanging November snow clouds
if not for his arm across her shoulders, pinning
her slender, silent frame down fast
or the bed of his Dad’s Chevy, which dug into her back
with each rhythmic rock of the truck.
It moved stealthily through the sky,
weaving through snow-capped treetops,
lingering overhead just long enough for her
to make out a glowing blue beam
shining down from the center of its saucer body.
The light glanced across the afterthought
of her sundress, her bare feet,
her meticulously curled hair splayed like a halo.
Honking car horns and exclamations nearby:
The town could see it now, too,
point it out from streetlamped driveways.
The news would pick it up by the time she crept,
unnoticed, through the basement window,
up each carpeted stair on catlike feet, between
the flowered haven of her sheets.
The lingering pointing fingers down the mountain
waved it by, calling for husbands and wives and children
and anyone to join the fray.
She imagined they were looping back to beam her up;
Her soul floats to the light, waving a slow goodbye,
finger by finger, to the body in the truck bed
leaking tears, head banging rear window.
He zipped his pants, clumsily rolled off.
Her friends were flying home with her secret.
Bruises bubbled up in fingerprint moons
on forearms, between bare legs.
He put his lips to her mouth, once,
She followed him into the truck,
tucking shame into the waistband of her dress.
He hadn’t seen it, wouldn’t remember
the saucer’s descent, the smell of her
perfume, or her wide-open eyes.
Only she and the pointing fingers knew.
Meticulously tucked. I am layered.
Each ugly atom folded within. Controlled.
I release slivered whispers: Imminence.
Capacity. Secrets of my bulging core.
Filling with matter. I am accumulating.
I pull the weight of twenty years
into the density of my centered mass.
Building heat. Too heavy to retain.
Nearing supernova. I am critical.
Anticipating sudden gravitational.
collapse. Breath held. Eyes up.
Braced for long-fantasized explosion.
But I hold no stardust. I ooze mortality.
Leak dark droplets. Scissored. Imploded.
I was sober, and I begged.
You moved in a cloud of Xanax
and the case of beer that you swore you could
I crept up the stairs to 202
in scuffed Keds.
Your door was unlocked as usual, but I knocked.
I had some dignity.
A tumble of words spilled from your mouth,
chewing every syllable like you couldn’t
taste what you said.
You tasted like beer. That’s all.
You held me a moment, there on the futon.
I sat in the middle with the dividing bar
digging into my side, but it didn’t matter.
I wanted hands on me.
You asked later, whispered the question,
a wisp of smoke into my eager ear.
Yes, of course we could go outside.
There was a patio. I could see it
from your window.
I didn’t make you put on shoes.
We played in the dark
with our clothes falling off.
You forgot why we were there, confusion
slurred with leathery words,
but I kissed your neck. You
I was successfully bare, with
nowhere to lie, nowhere to use the magic
I had learned from Cosmo and
the backseat of my car.
But you, you wanted to try
something. Something different.
And I said, “Wait.”
It was okay, though.
You assured me it was with a push
of my shoulder, down to the patio bench,
cutting me in half,
a bent paperclip. A dog-eared page
forced to hold its place.
You held me down until
you were sure that I was quiet.
And you fucked me out on that patio
that I could see from your window.
Your hands held me
I kept my mouth shut until the end,
until your beer breath and sweat beads
peeled from my neck.
There were headlights nearby;
I pulled my clothes back on.
You forgot why we were there,
but I handed you your boxers and
We walked back
on frozen toes and compromised concrete.
It didn’t hurt.
And you let me stay, held me
all night, curled within you,
a question mark cocoon, wrapped
in a dirty blanket and those
That was what it was worth.
Who wrote me poems about
my eccentricity and illustriousness
and equated me to stars and suns
and beautiful, powerful, explosive
majesties beyond our Earth,
too great for understanding yet
perfect for adolescent flattery—
I was only human.
Who turned a shoulder when
I smiled too widely, spoke
when I shouldn’t have, breathed
a hint of expertly masked
mutual admiration in the wrong
company, or any company
I was, still, human.
Who told me to tell someone
that the boy in my first period
algebra class was snaking his
hands up my shirt and down
the back of my pants when
our teacher wasn’t watching—
I told you.
Who kissed my best friend
just within eyesight, who whispered
affection to me while caressing
another broken girl’s fingers
in his hand, who held
my burgeoning self concept
haphazardly between his palms—
You held me.
Who made me feel small, even
years later, who can make my
perfectly curled hair and meticulous
makeup and early college graduation
and struggling motherhood feel
like far too much, and never,
You hold me, still.
M.C. SHINGLETON is a poet from Birmingham, Alabama. Her work was most recently featured in the Cathexis Northwest Press.