By 10 the gravel lot was throbbing
with the exposition of a double feature’s
second half. I saw the girl asleep
beside an idling Buick, her arms thrown
into the wheel well as if embracing
the still-warm rubber or the axle.
Her shocked-blond hair a fallow field
against the rusted panel. We do not know
how to pray as we ought. Every woman
in this town is stuffed with sin, teetering
in heels. When I got close I saw I knew
the sleeping girl. Her wicked sisters
giggled and posed along the fence, side-eying
the boys sitting in a borrowed truckbed.
Because her mother knew she’d be her last
and was yet another girl born wailing,
her hair even in that first-breath moment
a slick curl above her labor-flattened skull,
she named her for her sorrows.
Her eyes not yet turned dark, they christened her
Dolores and were done. I sat beside her
on the gravel-studded crabgrass
and held my hand above her mouth
to feel her hot breath on my palm.
Each exhalation’s puff of sticky air parted
her lips briefly, revealing a lost baby tooth’s
pink root. Once her tongue flicked against it
as if the spot were sore. I wanted then
to cup my palms and lower them against
her lips and throat to feel her body
shudder as she gasped and woke. The moment
passed. I touched only the soft and untanned
arch of one sandaled foot. The drive-in’s climax
of explosions and gunfire threw our silhouettes
into relief against the field behind us.
When I left her she was still unharmed.