improvised hopscotch today
leap over come-and-go chalk body outlines
Cleo plays while the talk’s still hot
while the hit’s still unclaimed
sawed-off shotgun hidden under a slide.
her head holds much history,
gang tattoos firmer than fractions inside
petal barrettes pinching pigtails outside
her minding the dust numbers lost
those too faded to draw upon.
kinks topped with cocoa butter,
the all-day kind, her black crown
casts a shadow below her swing-throne
like the cast-off shoes hung on phone wires
which she thinks an odd decoration.
heroin-smeared syringes around
a dirty daisy chain necklace
as Cleo rises above aluminum rungs,
where the top of the jungle gym meets
the flame concealed in a streetlamp.
Monique Hayes received her MFA from the University of Maryland College Park. Her work has appeared in Prick of the Spindle, Midway Journal, Touch: The Journal of Healing and Vine Leaves Literary Journal, among others. She was recently a finalist for the Alexander and Doris Raynes Poetry Prize.