Stolen Gum

She has so much gum.

I have none.

Pained by my lack,

I count thirteen sticks

in that pink

Extra pack:

shiny foil tips make my

fingers twitch. I

skirt temptation, chasing

through the kitchen, trailing

tutus—to outside,

seeking freedom:

Spear Stream,


garden packed with crisp

green beans. But I dash

back, snatch that fat

pack. One touch

and I taste relief. Above,

the Elvis clock waggles

his hips. The King

feels my need. And only he

sees me slip:

just one silver stick.

Silly girl,

you think you’re hiding

your hand, hiding

that gum, running

to the bathroom, first,

then feigning

thirst. You return

from my kitchen,

 refreshed. But when

you roll close to me

 on the trampoline,

your whispers smell


not the yellow-egg sulphur

 of my water,

 no bold whiff of our

 garlicky lunch. Nor can

crabapple season,

 weeks away, account

 for that cloying

bubblegum scent

on your breath.

Two decades on, as I drag

myself up

to Step Nine,

into the blinding shine

of Rigorous Honesty,

I see Caitlin’s

pink-cheeked face,

that stolen gum,

first. Why this small thing,

before uglier indiscretions:

lying through my teeth

driving only while drinking

selling coke to children

selling my soul for love

from coast to coast?

Perhaps Elvis, in his eternal

temporal wisdom, hinted

at what was to come:

me, holding drink, pipe, life

in my shaking hand,

already tasting the burn

in my throat?


Fire in the Hole

I hear the Jeep before I smell it.

I smell exhaust before I see it.

Before he sees me—before I know it—

I’m horizontal, ducking low

down below the windshield sight line,

one knee on the seat, the other

leg outstretched, just hidden

behind the unfurled wing of driver door.

I can almost taste the scratched leather on my gearshift

before the rising tide of fear catches in my throat,

creeps up my windpipe,

tugs at my tonsils,

trauma souring taste buds on the back of my tongue.

Even the tang of fresh-cut grass is no match

for this metallic panic the sound

of an old engine unfurls in me—

and only in this place. My mother’s house.

Her lawn. Her gardens.

Her perfect front porch

with its worn boards, grooved from years of zealous sweeping.

Where neither the eternal pack of dogs,

nor my mother’s love,

nor my own malignant bravado

could keep me safe.

Quincy Gray McMichael

When not at her writing desk, Quincy Gray McMichael stewards her farm, Vernal Vibe Rise, on Moneton ancestral land. Her writing—both creative nonfiction and poetry—has been published in Yes! Magazine, The Dewdrop, Open: A Journal of Arts and Letters, Greenbrier Valley Quarterly, and is forthcoming from Appalachian Review and Assay, among other publications. Quincy holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University. She is a Contributing Editor at Good River Review and is completing a hybrid memoir that explores obsession and overwork through a blend of poetry and prose.

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