We fought. He drank. I ripped
open a silver bag of Scrabble tiles
seam to seam & scattered like blood
the pieces. We liked a board
between us. He was the one
who never cheated & drew nucleii
in the margins of the papers we used
to keep score. He said, don’t help me.
I didn’t. I hummed the first bars
of a Bob Dylan song. The tiles
clicking & clean in my hands
felt safe. We played. He sketched me
as Joan of Arc & I laid down
every beautiful thing to exist
in words. He said, I see.
He didn’t. I was the one
who always cried & challenged
each triple word score. We held
tight. He played in pronouns.
I spelled lozenge. I spelled nox
& skipped my next two turns
while he drew lilacs. We fought
to win. We gnawed our lips like
animals at their bits. He drank
till I grew quiet & his doodles
sprawled messy over the page
like the blond wooden squares across
my palm. He left for a smoke. I stayed
& he came back in time
to find me spelling words
in dead languages. When the tiles ran out
I spelled them on his skin with my breath.
Anna Kelley is pursuing an MFA in poetry at Syracuse University. She is a reader for Salt Hill and moonlights as a skater for Assault City Roller Derby. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Citron Review, Literary Orphans, Cosmonauts Avenue, CICADA, and others.