January 12th

By Heather Bowlan

Featured Art: Woman Combing Her Hair by Edgar Degas, 1888-90

the day I told M
I loved her, we were at her new Dom’s
midcentury modern
in Hollywood, the one
with the surprisingly small bedroom.
I always pretend the best version
is what really happened, so I pretended
I didn’t need the wine, didn’t drink
myself to floating while we texted him
photos of our cheery breasts
and matching cherry-bordered
aprons for his birthday, that I wasn’t hungry
for her, that kissing for the camera, lips
open, waiting for him to come
home from work was just a great story for later—
which it is. And she said she would never
love me and I said no chance, really none, never?
and she said no. M always said
L.A. was her town, her true home, and she tiptoed
naked onto the terrace later that night,
a ballerina watching the traffic lights change
on Santa Monica, and I want to pretend
we glided a grand jeté entrance onto
some carcinogenic highway, quick-fast away
from every bare inch of that small room
out into her great city, one I almost knew,
city of spaces, boulevards, exits, of sun
and shifting ground, valleys
and parking lots, an algorithm of streets and
lanes that open out and don’t stop
opening, a mirage city of merges, a city
I nearly loved when its skyline framed the arch
of her neck—even now I see it, I speak it, that sailing
second, it’s the moment I wake up to
every morning I’m in the world.

Heather Bowlan’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Sugar House Review, Gigantic Sequins, Day One, Codex, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. She has received an Academy of American Poets University Award and fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Vermont Studio Center. Bowlan is the Chapbook Editor for BOAAT Press and the Assistant Poetry Editor for Raleigh Review, and she blogs for Ploughshares.

Originally appeared in NOR 20.

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