by Wendy Carlisle

How do you know it’s done? I admit the children were wrecked
but the sad man gave me reasons to remain— the sex was sex,

his blows weren’t all that harsh, he never shot at me but once.
It’s a gift to know how to leave I guess, a gift I didn’t possess.

I didn’t know how to gather pans and toys and skirts in the van,
put on the tie-dye and escape to where a burnt cross on the lawn

wasn’t so scary because crosses don’t hunt you. Crosses burn
in one place, as they should.

But the second I’d read all the books through once, I packed
my small clothes in the duffle bag—the inside was shot but it worked—

and turned off the lights and the phone and stepped
away from the state line. After that, I’d figured out how to vamoose.

Why mourn my rueful heart? There’s no express lane
for a one-passenger car. The climax was a flight into the dark.

Wendy Carlisle lives and writes in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the author of three books and five chapbooks. Her book, The Mercy of Traffic, is due out in 2019. She has 11 times been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and twice for best of web. See her work in the 2River View, Barzakh, Artemis Journal, Pacific Review and others. For information and links, check her website