I Have Never Been at a Loss for Words
by B. Lynne Zika

not the time I dropped my petticoat in the middle of the hall at school,
not the Sunday at Chocolocco Creek
when a man climbed the girders of the old steel bridge,
wiggled the crotch of his bright red, skin-tight trunks
and called down, “Take a good look, gals;
you’ll never see a better one…”
not even the year my old man gave up booze and women
for death in a Buick and a pool of blood, so

Hugh O’Brien had nothing on me.

He was slumming one afternoon at the Frosty Drive-in.
College boys who’d pulled themselves
beyond the mills and small-town curfews
had better things to do than park their graduation ’vettes
in the hub of high school linebackers and sanctified girls,
but Hugh was home on quarter break
and had a mission.
I was the one he chose.

I’d never been thrown into a car before; I let the whole world know
he better let me loose right there.
The drive to the quarry wasn’t long.
Where you taking me, Hugh… what the hell is going on…
why did you park here… don’t you put one finger on me…
All the while Hugh sat silent, watching the dashboard clock
carve endlessness into lines and circles of time.
Five minutes went by.

He checked his wristwatch against the dash.
Robins and warblers tuned for the last symphony of the afternoon.
Two minutes passed.
The Midline Quarry & Gravel Company closed its doors in 1965.
Not a body broke the solitude around us.
Any minute now I’d be torn in half,
pieces pushed aside to make way for The Game
in Hugh O’Brien’s mind.
Hugh rested his hands on the steering wheel.
Five minutes more.

He started the engine and backed us onto the road toward town.
By the time we got back to the Frosty, 32 minutes had gone by.
Hugh reached across me and opened my door.
I slammed it after I slid outside.

I knew the Apostle’s Creed
and the cheer for a first in ten.
I knew the adults to call ma’am or sir
and when I could cross the line.
Thirty years later, I know to laugh when I slam that door,
and I know to call out, “Better luck next time!”
while prudence and the virgins watch silently from their cars.
But I do not know the word for what he took,
his lips pressed shut, hands to himself,


B. Lynne Zika’s work has appeared in on-line and print publications, including Sheila-na-Gig, The Somerville Times, globalpoemic, and Poetry East. Awards include a Pacificus Foundation Literary Award in short fiction, Midway Review Little Sister Award in poetry, and Viewbug’s 2020 Top Creator Award in photography. Images viewable at https://artsawry.com/.