amy barnes

"ALMA MATER"

I sit on the threadbare Amtrak velvet tracking the city of my parents with their guidance. We look at the map together as they point out landmarks and marked land. There’s our school. They say it in unison, uniformed in dull button up coats with buttoned up lips, trained to still carry a ticket to be ticked off, momentarily ticked off at each other. Their words are bare, worn down by years of sitting on sadness and madness and badness and all the ‘nesses messes. At lunch, we eat train trip triangle cellophane sandwiches that don’t fit in heart-shaped holes and taste of dust and sawdust and sawed off lifelines. Look they say again and I obediently crane my neck to the window to see the place they kissed by lockers, locked each other down with golden rings and lettered jackets. They are forever taped down on yellowed yearbook paper, archived in a velvet dress and pearls and skinny legged, skinny tied suit in that year only. There are lilies on her wrist at prom and lilies in the wedding bouquet, on the not-white brocade dress, on their only daughter’s name. The conductor calls out our stop and we all breathe sighs of relief that we are stopping. My mother glares at him like he’s a chaperone or maybe has a flask of punch-filling vodka in his pocket. We walk past the baby house that held their baby me where they swung me on duet arms, smiling. My father buys her a white flower from a street corner vendor and they dance together in the street.

Amy Barnes has words at FlashBack Fiction, Popshot Quarterly, X-RAY Lit, No Contact Mag, Streetcake Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, Lucent Dreaming, TunaFish Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, Flash Frog, Janus Literary, Perhappened, Cabinet of Heed, Spartan Lit & others. She’s a Fractured Lit associate editor. Her flash collection is forthcoming in 2021.