by Haley Kellner
In New Mexico, we sleep on air mattresses.
Some on pool floats
to be abandoned at week’s end
like plastic pelts, half-deflated in the
airport trash can.
They are useless here
where the only water is our spit
on the ground we must soften
enough to give the garden fingers
to supplement our own because
our bones have more give than this land.
Pop each night under a ninth grade
girl leaving footprints
across each back stiff from throwing itself
If you are to claim this land, get to it
by dawn. Give it all the water in your canteen.
Give it all the salt in your husk. Give
up until tomorrow, you will never find
where you’ve been:
the mindset of miracles.
We were supposed to perform something tangible
like the parting of the Red Sea—dried up—and
even if the blind
could see and the lame could walk
this land would not leave
any nod to their hauls.
On the last day a girl may cry
face first into her air mattress
for a home
where the southern boot tread knows
every plot it walks. Here
the earth puffs out its chest, keeps her
at arm’s length. But the mattress,
it bends under her diaphragm.
Rises up in the exhale, like someone breathing back.
Haley Kellner is from Anderson, South Carolina and attends the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities as a creative writing senior. Over the years, she’s received a Best in Grade award from the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards as well as a Gold Medal for her poetry and regional placements spanning over poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. She’s also received Honorable Mention from the Leonard L. Milberg ‘53 High School Poetry Prize at Princeton University and the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest at Hollins University. Above all of this, she holds dearest the screenplay about a reformed serial killer falling in love she wrote senior year.