By Linda Hillringhouse

It would’ve taken all the water tanks on all the roofs in New York City
filled with whiskey, all the leaves in Riverside Park telling me how
to proceed every minute of the day. I would’ve needed to punch through
the self-induced coma, a blast so loud it would’ve popped the manhole covers
on Amsterdam Ave. It would’ve taken all the trashcans on all the streets
of the Upper West Side to hold the ashes of all the days I burned.
There were words, turning toward the sun, but I left them at the bodega,
among the plums and oranges, in a booth at Four Brothers, on the bar
of the Gold Rail, where I waitressed and whirled in the coronal flames
of young men’s eyes. I left them on stoops and in doorways, all the way
up Broadway to the little shop on 123rd Street with Maggie and Tina to buy
the Nefertiti necklaces for six bucks. I left words dying on traffic islands
amid the beer bottles and candy wrappers and in the writing class where
I would sit paralyzed, petrified of finding out who I wasn’t. And in the end
I chose safety and had to bend every bone in my body to fit into that tiny chair.

Linda Hillringhouse was a first-place winner of the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and second-place winner of Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. Her work has appeared in Lips, Paterson Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, Oberon, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her book of poetry, The Things I Didn’t Know to Wish For (NYQ Press, 2020) was shortlisted for The Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize in 2021.

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