Kristen M. Allen


We’re at the kitchen table, playing Scrabble.

You take a drag on your Parliament. You glance out the window. Anxious
the Talbot kids are

up to shenanigans.

AM radio—WBZ—drones in the background.

I concentrate on my letters, because there is no question I’m going to lose,
but the shame

Is in not giving it a good fight. The shame is in not being good enough.
(Have I ever been good enough?) That and I have no idea who the Talbots

Without looking away from the window, you put up a triple word score
using the X and the Z.

Exhaled smoke hugs me. You take another drag and grab more tiles.

We’re down the Cape and you’ve just taught me how to play Boggle. I love
this game, because I am better at it than you.

You light a cigarette to make clouds for the clear, blue summer sky.

You read off your list of words. Any word I don’t know you say is a bird or
fish. Even I can tell you are lying. Some kid is blasting Hell’s Bells from his
boom box. We both laugh.

The smoke clears. We’re in the hospital.
I’m doing the crossword puzzle. You’re scratching away at the Jumble.
Above me, I buy a vowel to make you well. Stevie Talbot comes in with flowers.
What’s an 8-letter word for groping around to hold onto something?