kami westhoff

In the end, the ache was in your ankles, not the storm
of violet on your throat. Your boots stamped cement
in staccato strokes, last words of the language of the lost.

Above you, the concrete sky rumbled with cars. You’d driven
the highway thousands of times. First, with your father,
then your mother, then the boy who taught you about the places
you would’ve said to anyone else Don’t touch me there.

You’d driven the highway yourself for a year, never
once thought of the forever that hovered above, only
of where you were going or where you’d been. He left
you where homeless slept, tarps tugged to their chins,
morning rush hour buzzing in their bones.

You never had a chance to know you never had chance.
Today, we see your face on our way to the grocery store
or chilly public pool, ice skating rink, stadium where men
concuss one another and call it sport. We’ll shake our heads,
What a shame, split-second ponder our own minor lives.

Your mother visits on holidays, scrubs moss from a ribbon-
wrapped cross, tugs stubborn horsetails from the graves
of tulips. She drapes garland at Christmas, brings balloons
on the anniversary of your first breath, a planter of carnations
on your last.

You smile from the roadside memorial as if you have no
idea so many men hate that you have a body they can’t call
mine, that your voice reminds them of the sour of their own spit,
how it simmers, froths their lips when they ask your name,
sprays like bullets when you don’t answer right, that, even
if you agree, they’ll hate you for saying yes.


Kami Westhoff is the author of Sleepwalker,winner of Minerva Rising’s Dare to Be Contest, and Your Body a Bullet, co-written with Elizabeth Vignali. Her work has appeared in various journals including Meridian, Carve, Third Coast, Passages North, West Branch, and Waxwing. She teaches creative writing at Western Washington University.