by Chad Frame


Outside, it’s scarcely my sixteenth

winter, pacing the drive, unsure

what’s led here—hours of typing,

the heyday of dialup chatrooms,


a torso photo, a phone call

to calm my jangling nerves—me out

the door, you on your way to pick

me up. Only the sparse, dead trees,


thinning hair on the hilltop’s scalp,

are watching when your car rattles

to a stop, your cracked face an old

catcher’s mitt slowly catching fire


within, spewing cigarette smoke.

Terrified, more of backing out

than anything, I creak the door

open and climb inside. We go.


Later that night, I am retching

in the bathroom when my mother

comes home from work. I do not tell

anyone there are parts of me


that will never shake free, never

be grown out of or eased into,

will never be the same again,

because they do not come from me.


This day I have learned to swallow

more than you, more than pride or Coke

straight from the two-liter bottle

to cleanse the taste—the hardest thing


to swallow is the idea

that there will be no second chance

at a first time. Persephone,

trapped in winter, aching for spring,


must realize because she swallows

her captor’s seed she can never

feel the sun, her mother’s plain face

bearing the promise of flowers.

Chad Frame was the 2017 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County and is a founding member of the No River Twice poetry improv troupe. He is also the poetry editor of Ovunque Siamo: New Italian-American Writing and co-founder of the Caesura Poetry Festival. Chad has been published in various journals, including decomP, Barrelhouse, Rust+Moth,and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, as well as featured on the radio program The Poet and the Poem hosted by Grace Cavalieri in association with the Library of Congress.