Ally Malinenko


-run away let your heart be your guide

it was the first mix tape you gave me
back when mix tapes were a thing to give

me, nervous and falling fast and hard
you, seemingly cocksure and worldly

and Tom Petty
singing to me about where I belong

It was the third song on the mix
and it struck me

because the others I knew well
but this felt new
and maybe it was.
The years have erased that
part of memory
like so much
chalk swept from dusted old hands

but the point is, love,
when Tom said

you belong somewhere you feel free

I felt it, hard and real.
I wanted it the way girls are told not to want anything
I wanted to feel free as a new girl in a new city
with a new boy on her arm
because I had, in fact, run away and found me a lover.
I felt it for the first time
having thrown off the shackles
of small town life

but really maybe not thrown
maybe just wriggled out of
maybe just barely saved myself
from a life that look more like a death
one that I always saw coming

but still, there now alone in the first
apartment I ever had in the first city I ever lived in
me, a young woman, getting ready for a college class
and you, a young man, working a day job

and Tom,
singing to me
about everywhere
I could belong.

I wanted it to be true then,
and even after all these years
I still ask
the wildflowers
and Tom,
is it?
Is it true?


Tell me I belong.

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