In Lafayette, Indiana, in 2003, sometimes the air smelled like steamed milk for no reason. The restaurant with the best enchiladas was tacked to a used-car sales lot. I swear a bead curtain marked the line between them. But maybe nothing marked it. In winter, on the same block as a tattoo parlor named Redemption, neighbors left unlit reindeer out for weeks, grazing. They must have looked like constellations at night, but it was always day when I saw them, their bodies just wire with space between. You had to imagine the light. You had to imagine they could smell something under the snow, something earthen; thawing grass blades. In Lafayette, Indiana, by the stockyards sometimes the air smelled like Purina. Sometimes the air smelled like soy beans. The wind would change and it would feel dangerous again to walk anywhere with him trying to pass for the first time as a boy. His Chaplin saunter and track jacket, long eyelashes. Always a pack of men leaning outside of the video store, the gas station. His “do you think they think…?” One time I grabbed the fabric of his white t-shirt, playing, and he was furious, as if I’d torn part of a photograph in which the shirt held him: vintage, correct. We tore apart. In Lafayette, Indiana, sometimes the air smelled like burnt sugar at 3 AM, despite no lights on at the bakery. Somewhere, the reindeer’s ribs and shoulders glimmering.
Sarah Green’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, 32 Poems, Pleiades, Gettysburg Review, Mid-American Review, FIELD, and elsewhere. Honors include a Pushcart Prize, a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and Best New Poets 2012. Her first book of poems, Earth Science, was published by 421 Atlanta in 2016; her edited multi-genre anthology on the theme of neighbors and neighborhoods, Welcome to the Neighborhood, will be published by Ohio University Press/Swallow Press in winter 2019.
Cover Photo by say_cheddar