Inland Empire, by Jennifer Gravley

Young once and enamored. Line down the belly, a lean thing always on the verge of halving. Wind-washed hair, skin tore up around the nails, one taste bud that bubbled higher and pinker than the others—each straining bit a tangle. No freeway-interchange pattern satisfied her, no amount of leftover high-school graph paper or corner-shaped shelving units. Where subdivisions gave in to the desert without contest, she toed their edges. Her handbags scuffed and dragged threads; she rolled them under her feet in cars that couldn’t contain her. She stepped on eyeglasses and bits of water glasses that she dropped one by one. Her foot slept hooked over yours in the thick batter of the heat. Her voice sang beneath the howling of the dark. She would go anywhere with you then.

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Jennifer Gravley is a writer of sentences, a watcher of bad television, and a reference and instruction librarian. She co-leads the Columbia, Missouri, chapter of Women Who Submit, an organization that seeks to empower women and non-binary writers by encouraging literary submissions. Her work has most recently appeared in Shirley, New Delta Review, and The Fourth River.

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