by Linda Rodriguez

The man and woman in the frozen park
at midnight are crazy. See
them dance—come together,
her eyes spitting, his aware of his sin.
Watch her rigid stance
melt and his slouch turn fierce.
With choreographed impulse, her hand extends
to touch his cheek. He jerks away
in pain or something rougher.
Her shoulders sag, then square
themselves and shrug. She pivots,
ready to leave. Now he reaches out,
spins her around, draws her
close. She struggles
against his arms and chest, hands fluttering, while
he drags her off the spotlit sidewalk.
Watch her glance at the dark bushes, then
at the strange hate
in his face. See how grim
her own grows, how
she tosses her head toward the night,
as if to say, “Go ahead.
Get it over with. Rape me, kill me,
end it somehow. You can’t want that
any more than I do.”
Now his face softens.
Once more she tries to touch.
He sways away from her outstretched fingertips.

They’re crazy. Listen
to her laugh, twisting loose
and whirling away from her opponent
in the dance or war
they’ve staged here
where all breath is visible
under the streetlamps. How fast
she runs to her car and leaves.
How unprepared for this step he is.
He can’t reach out
to stop her until her car is rolling
down the drive. In the rearview mirror,
she will see his hand lift,
his mouth open, his face twist,
and she will notice
what a stranger he is, older
and fatter and sadder
than she realized.
She will stop for coffee and doughnuts
and warmth, sit coughing and shivering
alone and hate every man
who eyes her. He will clutch his chest
alone under the streetlamp,
bowing to the audience of tree and frost,
then stumble, suddenly blind,
to his car and drink
himself to bed, only to dream
of shrubs hiding blood and bruised flesh
on the frozen ground, of how
a man can come so close to killing
what he loves.

First published in Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)
Copyright © Linda Rodriguez. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda Rodriguez’s three novels published by St. Martin’s Press featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret—have received critical recognition and awards, such as Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Award, selections of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, 2nd Place in the International Latino Book Awards, finalist for the Premio Aztlán Award, 2014 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award, and Barnes & Noble mystery pick. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.

For her books of poetry, Skin Hunger (Scapegoat Press) and Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press), Rodriguez received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence, the Midwest Voices and Visions Award, the Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, the 2011 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships.

Rodriguez is 2015 chair of the AWP Indigenous/Aboriginal American Writer’s Caucus, a founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers and Kansas City Cherokee Community.


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