POETRY March 6, 2020

Is it too much to say, it started

on the bus, writing, with something stuck
in my lower left molars that I tried to suck
in or tongue out but it wouldn’t budge, so
I employed my thumbnail, as a person
does, while old ladies & old men hunched
in the front seats facing each other in a hand-
cart standoff & kids wiped their wet noses
on their parents’ sleeves & everyone else
stared eager into their bottomless screens,
with noon sun streaming in like hot breath,
& I picked shamelessly until finally it slid
into my mouth but didn’t end there, no, more
pulled & still more from my teeth, a thin
strand now, slippery & dark like seaweed, so
I drew it through my lips with both hands
like dragging a fishing line of muck from
that pond we used to fish, behind the Wendy’s
parking lot as kids, smoking cigarettes &
tinnies with busted Icehouse cans the boys
would then skip across the water, & then I
remembered when they crammed too many
fish into a tiny plastic tank, then tossed them
up to smack them with a baseball bat back
to the pond as I yelled but they kept on swinging,
so I shut up and got drunk instead, because no
one could hear me & the same kid who started
that game once killed a squirrel & hid it in
my friend’s glove compartment for her to find
screaming, & once I found him curled up
in a tube slide at the playground at midnight
not wanting to go home, because no one could
hear him, & I just left him there too scared
to understand, & then the little kid sitting
in front of me sneakily peeked back
through the plastic bus-seat crack wide-
eyed until his astonishment burst into is she
all right
, his mother only hushing ‘til she too
turned in awe to see the horrible piling now
of thick, watery eyesore on the bus floor,
& an old man in front yelled what the hell
is that shit
, & the bus driver stared slack-
jawed into the rearview with the bus stopped
at a green light, & when at last the whole
mess was out in the middle aisle I said I
don’t know, it was just something stuck
in my teeth. But it’s out now, there it is

Lizabeth Yandel is a writer and musician based in Southern California and originally from Chicago. She is currently a poetry MFA student at UC Irvine and a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal. Her poems can be found in Rattle Magazine, Lumina Journal, Popshot Magazine, Nashville Review, and The Los Angeles Review. Her work was chosen as 1st runner up for the 2018 Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry.