Missions after Midnight, poem by Misty Skaggs

The white, hot, halo­gen flash
of head­lights
splits two lane dark­ness
of a Sat­ur­day night in the sticks.
We fly around curves.
Float up and over
hills
and hollers.
Asphalt slinks over ridges
like a fat,
black,
snake.

And we fol­low the snake.

Blind,
deter­mined.
We are rur­al route hero­ines
to the res­cue,
respond­ing to the ring­ing, rotary call
of our drugged up
damsel in dis­tress.
“Please”, she pleads, “come and get me…”

The grind­ing, gray crunch
of grav­el
blends with the hol­low howl
of a mutt dog.
A mangy stray with sag­gy tits,
and sad eyes,
tracks our slow progress,
as we creep
and we crawl
through the moon­lit trail­er park.

Mis­sions after mid­night
are the most dan­ger­ous.
But we blus­ter on.
Lit­tle girls alone
in the bad­dest part of the back­woods.
No big, strong farm boys
to pro­tect us tonight,
Just our sense of right­eous brava­do.
And the forty-five
And it’s loaded.

Tonight we ain’t lit­tle girls.
We’re grown women,
we’re cow­boys.
Rid­ing out on a doomed round up
moti­vat­ed by fuzzy mem­o­ry.
Urged on by nos­tal­gic rec­ol­lec­tions
of anoth­er used-to-be lit­tle girl.
A far away, freck­le faced lit­tle girl
with a gap-toothed grin
and a per­pet­u­al smear
of dirt,
high­light­ing
her high cheek bones
like blush.

She’s lost in a haze,
that long ago lit­tle girl
we can’t help but recall
when she calls out for help.
The two of us,
her cousins,
her kin,
her blood…

We see her deep set, bright,
blue eyes,
beneath the glaze
of Xanax
and Wild Turkey.
We see the blue eyes
of a lit­tle girl
who’s seen too much.
Blue eyes grown world weary,
and bit­ter,
and jad­ed,
and old
too soon.

We call her name.
Half whis­per, half holler,
half-hang­ing out the win­dows
of the near­ly new Mus­tang.
Our trusty steed is qui­et,
cruis­ing up and down the aisles.
Sliv­ers of light

split the night.
Makeshift sheet cur­tains
pull back to prove
to the para­noid,
that we aren’t the cops.

And sud­den­ly, she appears.
Stum­bling out of the woods
at the end of the row
of Sil­ver Bul­lets and sin­gle-wides,
behind the Frosty Freeze.
Gone is the grimy, Bar­bie t‑shirt
and the ragged, ruf­fled skirt
we remem­ber.
Replaced by daisy dukes
and scraped knees,
and sal­low skin hid­ing under
an over­sized hood­ie.

No more chub­by cheeks
or crooked smiles.
Now it’s miss­ing teeth,
and tracks,
and stretch marks.
The lit­tle girl
we used to know,
has her own lit­tle girl
in tow.
The sleep­ing baby,
blue-eyed like her
brand new Mom­my,
is an after­thought,
con­fined to car seat,
lined with the stray,
sharp,
nee­dles
of white pine.

Misty Skag­gs, 29, cur­rent­ly resides on her Mamaw’s couch way out at the end of Bear Town Ridge Road where she is slow­ly amass­ing a library of con­tem­po­rary fic­tion under the cof­fee table and per­fect­ing her but­ter­milk bis­cuits. Her gravy, how­ev­er, still tastes like wall­pa­per paste. She is cur­rent­ly tak­ing the scenic route through high­er edu­ca­tion at More­head State Uni­ver­si­ty and hopes to com­plete her BFA in Cre­ative Writing…eventually. Misty won the Judy Rogers Award for Fic­tion with her sto­ry “Ham­burg­ers" and has had both poet­ry and prose pub­lished in Lime­stone and Inscape lit­er­ary jour­nals. Her short series of poems enti­tled “Hill­bil­ly Haiku" will also be fea­tured in the upcom­ing edi­tion of New Madrid. She will be read­ing from her chap­book, Pre­scrip­tion Panes, at the Appalachi­an Stud­ies Con­fer­ence in Indi­ana, Penn­syl­va­nia in March. When she isn’t writ­ing, Misty enjoys tak­ing long, woodsy walks with her three cats and watch­ing Dirty Har­ry with her nine­ty six year old great-grand­moth­er.

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