Leave behind the lobby of the Ritz,
its wall of aquarium fish. Leave
the kidney shaped pool
necklaced by aqua Sunbrellas,
tiny triangles of spandex, ribs
oiled, skin made of glitter,
skewers of melon. Sweet palms
shading iguanas larger than lapdogs
and colonies of feral cats you sense by smell.
Leave it all for a convertible
and the threat of gators down Route 1
tying the islands to the ankle of Florida.
A highway string stretched taut
through the ocean dotted
with oddities, margarita stands, bait shops
selling key lime pie, flea markets
where you can feed the tarpon—
their large wet faces opening
over the hands holding the fish.
Shacks turned into bars cantilevered
out over the marshy canals, stilts
rotting green and jungled.
Stools topped with the leathered
absentmindedly smoking, lazy
grip on a Landshark, eyes unfocused
and blue next to tourists in tulip-
colored polos tucked into their shorts,
velcro sandals, mirrored sunglasses
on a strap around their fat necks.
While all the resort employees march
in their starched slacks past
bougainvillea toward the night shift.
Tiny deer chew black mangrove,
and acacia. Man-o-wars roil, trailing
poison. The ocean spreads like wings
with infinite span. The sky in your rearview
is a movie. It’s pink lemonade.
And when you close your eyes,
hands off the wheel, you don’t care
if you’re alive or dead
as long as it’s never-ending.
Whitney Hudak is a CNM and poet living in Newport, RI. She has work appearing or forthcoming in Pine Hills Review, Streetlight Magazine, and Hunger Mountain, among others, and is a Pushcart nominee. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and a DNP from Columbia University.
Sometimes A Cigar Is Not Just
for Monica Lewinsky
Inside a Florida strip club, ‘98,
you can still smoke the cigars they stock
so management decides to create
a roll call ripped from the headlines that mocks
a 22-year-old girl, median
age of the ones who twirl before tourists,
titans of this tiny town. Cigar in hand,
circle around, until we’re picked for a tryst,
topless then helped to the ground to emulate
a power disparity that makes men
feel presidential while we gyrate—
though the regulations of Puritans
always frustrate. You can only demean
never penetrate our skin or the sheen
of glittery sweat. We are all interns,
lest we forget, in what is still a male
carousel where we consent here to turn,
ribboned ponies they harness, not for sale.
Rented thighs burn mimicking rides, hundreds
who never even touch. Runaways
accruing crop marks, existential dreads.
These slut shaming games forever played
out in womanchildish suburban heads
compete now with a voice louder than them.
The young outlive the withering, dead —
it is the risk of maligning younger women
who forego berets, bitter days you reigned.
We have the last word about all the pain
you abandoned us to, the joke you allowed
us to be — for we all made mistakes like these
in our twenties. My own spent dancing for crowds
of married men who want us on our knees.
Sometimes I would submit to the least worthy
of these. There was no presidential seal
made surreal by the indignities
they imposed. Cigar cellophane peeled
while I took off my clothes made it as lewd
as details disclosed by Kenneth Starr, Matt
Drudge. Was I just passive or did I collude
in these cigar strip club roleplays that
condemned her and ourselves in fraught
dated thoughts. Sometimes a cigar is just not —
Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Rhysling nominated sonneteer and a Best of the Net 2020 finalist. Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of 21 books of poetry including Crow Carriage (Sweet Tooth Story Books) and The Stakes (Really Serious Literature) and the editor of seven anthologies. She is the founder of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and co-founder of Performance Anxiety, an online poetry reading series. Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie) and her website kristingarth.com
The SUV 6 feet behind me
wants to pass on this 2 lane
and I’m 5 miles over the speed limit,
looking for the turn to Rainbow Lake Road
while he’s on his way to Florida.
I guess he trusts his robot brakes
if a couple of deer cross the road,
and he doesn’t know there’ll be 4 lanes soon
so I wonder whether his insurance
will cover my broken back and suffering.
We should stop and talk instead of hurrying:
find if we worship the same football team,
complain about our wives, ask where we’re from,
where we’re going.
It would be like meditation,
praying for understanding.
We could trade cars and places
but I wouldn’t be able to keep up.
Several years ago, John Aylesworth graduated from Ohio University with an M.A. in English (Creative Writing) and a Ph.D. in Comparative Arts. He decided to stay in Athens (Ohio) and teach in public schools, raise a family, and write. More of his poems can be found at John Aylesworth poetry.