Gnashing Teeth Publishing

| words that get in your teeth

I Thought It Would Be Better To Burn Out by Pepper Cunningham

It’s already five zillion degrees, the type of heat that loosens screws
on window screens, makes them pop out with a gentle push.
We say we’re literally too cool for school so we dip

out early to bus down to the springs,
or to the coffee shop where the beer comes in golden cans
perspiring like our tanned foreheads, or to a gas station

to Hey, Mister! the drooling men hanging like a nail
by the pumps, waiting for girls like us. We adjust
our bikini tops, pout our lips a little. We stash coke

bottles full of whiskey in our backpacks and tell the men
nothing. We are shameless and barefoot and never empty
handed, we eat cheesy fiesta potatoes from someone else’s table,

we’re not gross we’re rock and roll. Our hair is candyfloss,
or clementine, or that cerulean that always fades to cucumber
and doesn’t come out no matter how much we scrub at our roots,

trapped on strands by cheap shampoo, our holy fortress of youth.
At night when the screws pop out, we smear purple glitter
on our eyelids, blend it with sweat. We crawl onto a roof to be closer

to the stars. You’re on acid and you say why doesn’t he like me
and I say I like you enough for everybody. I hold back
your rainbow hair. You weep beat poetry into my secondhand

embarrassment. We are never more full
of ourselves, sputtering sparklers stark
against a dull summer we thought would never end.

Today you and your brown hair work in IT
and have a 401K. I want to tell you that I still use
glitter and that I wonder if everything that will ever happen

has happened. I dye my hair clementine.
I scrub my roots with cheap shampoo.
I wait for everything to fade.

Bio: Pepper Cunningham (she/her) is a writer and teacher who hails from Texas but now calls home the mountains of southern Ecuador. She is the Translation Editor at MAYDAY Magazine. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Rust + Moth, Ample Remains, Across the Margin, Olney Magazine, and elsewhere. She still wears glitter every day. Pepper tweets when she feels like it @pepwriteswords

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