The Boy, by Amanda Crum

Close to the main highway
you flicker,
a skinny thing in last year’s cutoffs
and gravel dust staining
your palms.
The trees aren’t tall
enough to blot out
the sun
or obscure the motel,
a dark beacon to weary travelers
that now sits hungry. Waiting.

In the breakdown lane you pause,
pale head cocked toward Orion,
Mother-Voice silent.
You think of her last words
(Be A Good Boy),
a curt imperative scribbled
onto an old-fashioned postcard,
and for a moment you consider
abandoning this in favor
of checking the jar.
Your hand curls

involuntarily, cupping
dry mountain air rather
than silver. No.
There is nothing here
to remind you of her
but the smell of gasoline
as you round the bend.
Blackflies bitch and fret
over a squirrel flattened
to the rocks.
Bingo, you whisper,

heart stuttering in its cage,
nimble fingers unafraid
of that bottle-brush tail.
You look up to the motel,
the king of the mountain,
and picture him asleep in his chair,
a reluctant bachelor who
once had plans of his own.
Now he pays twenty-five cents
for each piece you bring,
never knowing what it will truly cost.


—Published 16th April 2019


About Amanda Crum
Amanda Crum is a writer and artist whose work can be found in publications such as Eastern Iowa Review, Blue Moon Literary and Art Review, and Barren Magazine, as well as in several anthologies. Her first chapbook of horror poetry, The Madness In Our Marrow, made the shortlist for a Bram Stoker Award nomination in 2015; her latest, Trailer Trash, will be published by Finishing Line Press in early 2019. She currently lives in Kentucky with her husband and two children.