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Madeline - Hayley Bowen

My hand floats out the open window,

a pieridae surfing the stream of heavy July air.

The other hand fingers an organic condom in the cupholder,

half concerned about whether or not she uses them,

half hoping some magnet exists to pull her fingertips

that rest on the shifter—like butterfly tongues

on the pistils of hollyhocks—closer to mine.

I imagine the flesh of her throat is made of petals,

her eyes are anthers and her lips the stigma

for me to land on, to drink from. Is it an inherited trait

that attracts butter flies to flowers, or is it learned behavior?

And what of the moths and the light?

And then, what of the flowers and the light

That bloom from her lips and glows from her eyes?

And which am I: the moth or the butterfly?

Am I the moth—sleeping in daylight, all beiges and browns,

barraging the light in madness or desperation

or both, in fear that the light is the only warmth

I will ever know? I think I’m both moth and butterfly,

and she is both flower and light but

what if she is glowing with a porch-light blue

inviting me in with a quick, electric death?

I try not to look when she slides a wet strap back up

her caramel shoulder, I try not to show

how jealous I am of the strands of hair she tucks

behind her ear. She reaches back to the console between us—

to downshift, to slow down—

but in my head she reaches for my hand instead.


Hayley Bowen (she/her) is a poet interested in using language to immortalize the landscapes of everyday life. Her work has appeared in Three Peaks Review, Scythe Magazine, Sylvia Magazine, Pif, and Dunes Review. Although she has spent portions of her life in the Sonoran desert of Southern California, the Rocky Mountain foothills of Colorado, and the Black Hills of South Dakota, she has decided that “home” is wherever she happens to be at the moment. She currently resides in an attic in Upstate New York. Hayley is an avid craft beer enthusiast, an amateur painter, and a terrible knitter. She is currently an MFA candidate in creative writing poetry at Syracuse University.


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