Two Poems

by Rachael Hershon


Change for a Twenty


Strings of blue and

pink neon open at

Margaret’s Wash N’ Dry.

My bundle still

in her dryer after

my eight hours, plus transit.

Fluorescent bulbs spit their

tinny buzz across the walls.

Tide and cigarettes.

She herself paces past.

Greedy, glaring eyes hungry

for hundreds in quarters.

Blade nose could pop

holes in salt-choked tires.

The old bitch watches me

fold and leave.


Tall glass caps the

storefront. Outside,

leaves curl to shells,

branches creak to

wind as day slows

and shrinks early

to darkness.


Inside Amy’s Convenience,

two grease-beards

hunch over keno

and sacrifice whole paychecks.

I point to the number 20s.

Green and purple rolls

glimmer beneath the case

of Marlboros. Rahul

smells like ash and cologne.

A mustached smirk flashes

as he pinches my pink palm,

kisses the cracked clammy flesh

and whispers, Of course,

you’re eighteen now.


You emerge from the store

you’ve managed for six years,

grounded on a cratered lot

with brown water islanded

by flattened Coronas. Lines

of rigged up cars reflect

neon ribbons beneath a sky

raucous with motorcycles

and sirens. The smell

of a crusted fryolator steeps

the uneven sidewalks. You’re

cross-eyed with a Marlboro lipped

flask at the ready. Each night

the same woman watches you—

dirty hair, capillaried eyes—from across

the street in her tower

of brick and metal.

She buries her hands

in a brown bag swollen

with wontons and oil.

Sunken eyes meet yours

as she tears the red

and white box,

sucks the grease

from her quick fingers.

You thought you’d be after

better things, but now

dreams of her mouth

stroke you to sleep.

Rachael Hershon‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in A Quiet Courage, The Avalon Literary Review, Poetry Quarterly, and Red Eft Review. She is originally from Framingham, MA, USA and is currently an undergraduate studying English and Creative Writing at Brandeis University.

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