Jacklyn Henry

 kissing cousins’

four and half days across the country

from Los Angeles to Syracuse

to visit my parents families


i had no interest in

sitting on a couch



catching up


my cousin Valerie comes to my rescue and

takes me to meet her friends

down at a Dairy Queen

just off a one lane highway

in a town of seventy-eight people


she assumes a California kid

smokes a lot of pot and i didn’t

and she laughs when

i try and cough up a lung


we stand around laughing

and joking

until stars come out

and the girl running the Dairy Queen

put the Closed sign up


my cousin tells me stories

of abuse and fights

and a family that doesn’t care


i couldn’t  relate

but i try


as fireflies begin to dance

in a wet dreary night

we embrace

and she kisses me

as lonely people

sometimes do

even if they are cousins


at 15 i had never kissed a girl

not for lack of trying

and when i finally did

it became another secret

not to be shared


when we finally

drove away

for our next destination

i watch the world swallow

her up


i cry


knowing she would never

be free


i eventually





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