July Westhale

Town Water Supply Contaminated, Female Teenagers to Blame

(Winters Express newspaper heading, June 2003)

If you live left of the vernal pool it means you’re trash

and everyone you knew was trash, except you. You had elbows that dug into my ribs when you laughed,

elbows that stuck close. This was before your mom was dead,
but after mine was. After we got arrested, we found a box spring
at the creek and pushed it into the water to float on,

it was a real treat, most of the time we rode
pieces of water coolers that floated down from the dam,
or on our backs with our feet touching
because we had run out of ways to tread water.

When we were sixteen, I pulled you
into the town water tower and unhooked
your bra, pushed you into the smell of tin
and chlorine and you cried.     

Your clothes hit the cop car in the park below
and we got Caught, hauled in. We shared the small
cell’s concrete bench and I fell asleep with your elbow
near my mouth. The next day, we were freed
and rode our bikes to the creek.

I understood that we didn’t talk about tin, after that,
just spring and the almond trees. You talked— about
the ways things smelled when they smelled nice,
How the gutters smelled like marzipan.

The creek was tourmaline that morning, or ochre.
Sickly and soft around the edges where the mud sucked
at our feet not treading water,

We floated through the golden carp,
surfing rust brown rivertrash.