Severed//Kara Goughnour

The way the black birds caw in Pennsylvania sounds like the splatter of spilled grape juice in a wood-paneled basement, gargled and fluid, a martyr for the dying teen trying to glide fake wine down their friends’ gullible gullets. How gargled and fluid it must’ve sounded, that out-of-towner who spun out on the sharp turn onto Beaumont, branches catching her right in the chorus of that one that everyone starts singing once you’ve been on the road long enough to get sick of the good stuff. And every branch in the yard broken, covered in sick, picked at by birds with beetle-black wings, the olfactory of the decapitation gushing stink the width of the hometown field; the hair medusa-wild, a golden brown with a slight tint of green. The kids said it was mold, and mold don’t grow that quick but it does make you fake buying drinks for your friends, each of them slapping down whatever they’ve got. It does make forgetting something of value. It was something you never look away from, a clump of you thumping out through the exhaust, you driving away without it from the cotton candy dance of red and blue behind you. It was like that carjacker in Arizona, me coming in from getting off the bus, and there’s Ma making a fly trap of her mouth with that wrinkled, tan hand flapping over it. And you keep thinking the camera will cut, so you watch, because someone’s gotta be looking out for you, but it doesn’t cut and you watch a man shoot his head clean off before the TV statics out to a mesothelioma ad and quick as that it’s you and Ma in the sun-speckled living room knowing that you’ll never see living the same again.

Kara Goughnour is a writer living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They are the author of Mixed Tapes, forthcoming through Ghost City Press. They are the recipient of the 2018 Gerald Stern Poetry Award, and have work published or forthcoming in The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Third Point Press, and over forty others. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram or read their collected and exclusive works at