You learned the price of your life
when you changed your name and gender
in Nebraska’s cold wilderness.
Your fear was always Chick-fil-A’s shadow, and,
to a lesser extent, Cracker Barrel’s. There’s proof in geography, you say, how
the closer you live to a Cracker Barrel, the more likely you are
to die trans or queer or any shape or form but god-sanctioned
cis and straight. At least, you say, you’ll always have
Taco Bell, a Baja Blast, a place to be as open and vegan
as you need to be.
Your life dissolved like a cinnamon twist on your tongue
and all you had left was the sweetness
and shadow of a life.
Taco Bell: refuge for the vegan stoner and transwoman,
even if tonight’s meal is just rice and beans and
lettuce on a limp tortilla.
Even if we’re together, here, in my beat-up Buick,
scarfing down seven-layer burritos in the death throes of Nebraska’s capital city,
debating whether or not marriage is a viable system
in a climate like today’s—the ice caps, you remind me, are melting,
and somewhere up north a polar bear
finds herself stranded on an ice float
far from the mainland, which was never land, really, just ice,
stable but fleeting. You said your home
was like the Arctic—how, crossdressing
at seven, you never imagined your parents
would exile you from the only home you’d ever known,
even though your father had kept his second family a secret,
even though your mother was unhappy but accepting
of everything her life had become, even though
you’d had some hope when, in the wake of the Orlando shooting,
your father had called the killer a coward, a disgrace
to Islam. As if time were moving every direction
but forward. Nebraska remains an unsetting sun,
infertile crescent, the remnant of some extinct ice sheet
that freezes us with its subterranean shadow.
We pass hot sauce packets in the parking lot. It’s past midnight.
We wait to hear the ice thaw, crack—wondering
if the planet hears us yet.
Lane Chasek’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Broke Bohemian, Contrast, Hole in the Head Review, Jokes Review, North Dakota Quarterly, What Rough Beast, and others. Chasek’s first book, Hugo Ball and the Fate of the Universe, was released earlier this summer through Jokes Review Press. Follow them on Twitter @LChasek.