Whenever I hear Johnny Cash on the radio,

I think of a girl I once knew with a scar

on her right cheek, and sleepy eyes

the color of emeralds; 

We worked together at the same cafe

where I fell in love with

her thick honey lips and hick accent,

making sexual innuendo at me

whenever she got, “an order up for a weenie,”

and so what if she was a year younger

and still in high school, I was in my first year

of college with acne so bad nobody

would give me a second look,

but this girl was like a burning bush

by the side of the road, a box you are told

never to open, a long trail of gunpowder

leading to the tip of a match,

and pretty soon we were screwing

 in the backseat of my car after work, 

tipping back beers, and making small talk

about the rain;

and though she was not my first, 

she was the first girl

to ever rub me rough, and grab me so tightly

it hurt; the first girl to ask me to slap her

as she bit my lower lip, and smiled.

And though I acted tough,

and pretended it didn’t bother me,

another part of me began to wonder

where a girl so young,

learns to be so tough.

Then, one night she invites me out to her place,

to see her horse, and though

I cared nothing for horses, I hoped

we could find some place for ourselves.

I had to drive ten miles out of town

just to get there, and a cool mist laced

the trees as the gray skies that followed me,

turned dark.

She lived in a small trailer, with some land

and a few horses, and when I walked inside

her mother and father sat across

from each other in silence,

smoking and drinking whiskey.

And it was like they were frozen,

staring off into nothing and she said,

“Daddy” three times before he even

noticed we were there. “This is my boyfriend,”

she said,  and I saw a cold look cross his face 

as he took a drink of whisky and sized me up

like a boxer; “Well, girl you best tell him 

to get on home or your gonna get the belt.”

“Whatever Daddy,” she said, shuffling me

out the door to see her horses.

And still her mother didn’t move

or look, even when she said,

“I’m not a little girl anymore.”

She tried to show me her horses,

but there was a dark and lonely feeling

creeping up inside me, a cold

I couldn’t name or save her from.

A darkness I was afraid to touch,

like the horse that whinney

in its stable, trapped and desperate.


I told her I was sorry, as I left,

and I made myself put my hand 

to her cheek, one last time

because I wanted her to know 

I meant for everything, 

her drunker father, the belt, 

the scar on her right cheek,

and all the scars that were still hidden,

I was too young and afraid to see.


he comes to the bar because he needs a damn drink,
and he needs to drown out his mind with the music and
the chatter. it’s no his usual place to go – a bar – but for
these reasons it works. it could be relaxing. 

he’s on his third drink when he catches her eye. across
from him, on the other side of the square bar table. he
almost doesn’t know if she’s looking at him until he sees
the curve of a smile when he catches her eye. he looks
away for a moment, slightly embarrassed.