Ballistics by Hilary Jacqmin

I remember you at thirteen,
smoke-singed, scrawny

as a witch, an embryo
mortared in your gut.

We huddled with you
in the hot auditorium

while waiting for the late bus,
talking about keeping it,

talking about flushing it out
with pennyroyal tea. You scratched

baby names on your camo pants
with the spike of a drafting compass.

Your boyfriend scared us:
seventeen, unshaven, stocky

as modeling putty. He shot clay pigeons
in the backyard; sometimes he gutted squirrels.

For him, you’d gone commando,
ditching your day-of-the-week panties.

You joined the Civil Air Patrol,
and stowed a penknife in your underwire bra.

At school dances, we watched him pin you
against the crêpe-paper hearts.

Boyz II Men popped the speakers.
His acne scars glowed like stars.

You lost the baby at a slumber party,
cramped over the toilet

as a rose of blood sieved down your thigh.
Not that you’d been that far along.

Two months, at most. Next spring,
you were yourself again—cursing

in the halls after bunion surgery.
In typing class, you bombed your textbook

on the floor like everybody else
to try to make the typing teacher, a Vietnam vet, duck

and cover at his desk,
then smirked like nothing could catch you.


Hilary S. Jacqmin lives in Baltimore, MD, where she works at Johns Hopkins University Press.