Play. Ground.

Jessica Lanay

At the cast of her thin finger I become—

“You be the father.” She says,

“You be the husband.” I think

of everything a seven-year-old girl—

white keloids on her knees, could know

about these things.


From the top of the plank castle I examine

the sky, as a witch would a yolk, I try or so

it seems to swallow the rain clouds. I recall

how in my house the line between boys and

girls comes down to cunning.


I lay my flatness against hers and push, two

ends of the world grinding to salt—she grabs

the pockets of my jumper and pulls, thrusts.

Cheeks flushed with blood—we lost our breath.


Then she says, “You be the boy—eat this.

Kiss me.

Chase me when I leave.” I wait. She turns

her back to me to prepare to go down the single

petal of a slide. Before she can leave

I push her from the top, sending her

braided head down first, sending her

to crumple at the bottom.


I slide down after her. I smile over her scraped

face and say, “I’m sorry—I love you. Don’t tell.”

About the Work

Jessica Lanay

Jessica Lanay is a poet, short fiction, and art writer currently pursuing her MFA at the University of Pittsburgh while assisting at the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics. Her work focuses on architectures of interiority, escapism, history of psychoanalysis, and southern culture. Her poetry has appeared in Sugar House ReviewCrab Fat Literary MagazineAcentos ReviewFugue, and others. She has work forthcoming in The Common, Prairie Schooner, and Indiana ReviewHer short fiction was most recently published in Tahoma Literary Review, and Black Candies. A short autobiographical essay was also published in Salt Hill Journal. She is a Callaloo, Cave Canem, and Kimbilio Fellow.

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