photo of girl's mouth with white plastic horse sticking out

Sixteen by Ellen Birkett Morris

Mary’s mother was older with gray hair and a watchful eye. I’d visit Mary’s apartment and we’d dance to songs on the radio, careful not to disturb the figurines on end tables. We’d eat white cake with chocolate icing. When the handsome football player came around her mother invited us out on the patio and sat there too, looking right into his sleepy blue eyes, breathing in the sweet scent of pot from his clothes, offering iced tea (decaf of course, it was after eight) and cake, as if nothing were amiss. That summer we went horseback riding, just Mary and me. She borrowed the car, drove fast on the winding roads. I chose an old horse, while Mary sat tall astride a yearling. She rode him hard to the far end of the field, a blur of legs and arms, her long hair streaming behind like a veil. For a moment I felt his flanks between my legs, the slow steady rhythm of the ride, the difference between desire and contentment. The difference between the football player and a piece of cake.

Ellen Birkett Morris is the author of Surrender (Finishing Line Press). Her poetry has appeared in journals including The Clackamas Literary Review, Juked, Thin Air Magazine, Alimentum, Qarrtsulini, Gastronomica and Inscape. Her poem, “Origins,” was nominated for the 2006 Pushcart Prize. Ellen is the recipient of a 2013 Al Smith Fellowship.

Lead image“Untitled” (via Flickr user Gabriela Camerotti)