Arsenic Lobster poetry journal Issue Forty-one
Summer 2016
The Highway is Just Concrete
Lydia Armstrong

You were in fourth grade feeling like everyone else knew childhood.
You were in middle school eating Tylenol in social studies
Because you hadn’t found real drugs yet but you knew the pain was coming.
You were a teenager swimming laps in a fish bowl
And all you could do was circle round and wait.
Someone asks if you’d like to know how you’ll die and you say it was
Written on your birth certificate.
You get older, you know, we’re adults now,
And you should be past this,
But you’re behind the wheel on the highway wondering if you’re going
Fast enough to hit that Toyota ahead and not live to explain it.
Because the explanation is the nightmare,
Upright in your hospital bed with nothing to say,
How do you tell them it was always there?
You think about being old with a long silver braid and all that calm wisdom
But you’ve seen enough of the elderly to know their fear,
That desperate resignation
How in the end we’re just frightened children reaching for the light switch.
You are chain smoking in your kitchen listening to the clock tick off the
Wire fingers of its three hands all the reasons you aren’t worth it.
You are hiding your household scissors in case courage comes in your sleep.
You are silent.
Your smile dissolves in the putty of your mouth and you lose the mechanics
Of laughter,
Your lips are rubber bands.
It isn’t up to you.
It follows you like the scent of the chest you lay your head on.
You read it in the language of footsteps leading away from you.
It is heaviest when you are standing on the threshold of a party that you will
Leave early because you’re afraid of being alone in a room full of people.
Proximity to happiness only makes it worse.
You sleep with the fan on.
You reach for the radio dial when guardrails start to look like missing teeth,
You focus on the white lines home.
Short dashes in the distance,
Long streaks past the hood of your car,
Code for we aren’t going to make it.
The highway is just concrete.
This is what we build walls with.

About Lydia Armstrong

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