The part of the story where we decide to believe in the protagonist. The part where she falls out of the boat. The part where she barely makes a splash. The part where we can’t distinguish her cries from laughter, where she photographs moths and storm clouds, insists we guess which is which. Thumbing that fat stack of pictures animates them, showing us how she bobs in the sky over Cleveland. Her smile, a sign of trouble, wins us over.

She takes us to a few parties where her engine clears its throat. This is the part where we learn a belt can mess with timing. The part where she censors thoughts that make her mother look bad, fears anything spotted on an x-ray, shows barely enough faith to see snow as temporary. When she’s clumsy, her father calls her Gertrude. That’s back in a time when carpets creeps halfway up walls in some houses. A time with too much eyeliner and Mercury in retrograde. A time with blind trust in strange dogs. It’s the part with open curtains. Putting on a show for the whole neighborhood, Gert?

We grow protective. When she goes home with the one who applauds her lily padding washer lids at the laundromat, we want her to love him, but she sneaks out as soon as he’s asleep. This is the part where she prepares to leave the riverbank. The part where she moves up into the hills, hot on the trail of a spell to unscorch the earth. The part where grief gets in her way. But since we also wear our pain like big toes poking out of socks, we keep reading. When it comes to hell or high water, none of us wants to be alone.


Carolee is a writer and artist living in Upstate New York, where – after a local, annual poetry competition – she has fun saying she has been the “almost” poet laureate of Smitty’s Tavern. She has an MFA in poetry and works full-time as a writer in social media marketing.