Author: Katie Jean Shinkle

Katie Jean Shinkle is the author of four novellas and six chapbooks, most recently “None of This is an Invitation” (with Jessica Alexander, Astrophil Press, forthcoming) and “Will You Kiss Me Goodnight?” (The Offending Adam, 2021). Recent work has been featured in Fugue, Sou'wester, Always Crashing, NELLE, Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is a 2021 Lambda poetry fellow, co-poetry editor of DIAGRAM, and teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing program at Sam Houston State University.


Dina & Darlene

Out too late again, locked doors, access denied. All lights in the trailer park dim in every window. Dina & Darlene have to sleep in the carport in the wheelbarrow under the old shower curtain they use as a blanket. They rest their heads against each other, no need for a pillow. They are raccoons or opossums, scavenging or playing dead. This morning, no time for real sleep. Instead, they knock on the front door, the vinyl and fiberglass indented under fists. Their father lets them in, standing in the doorway in his hibiscus-print boxer shorts. They grab a red, macrame, hemp backpack with a marijuana leaf sewn into the front full of cheap, warm, cans of beer from their bedroom. Before they leave, they take a moment each to kiss the nearest face of River Phoenix. Out in the toolshed behind the trailer, friends are waiting. The toolshed reeks of corpse, or so Misty says, and she should know, she’s an embalmer’s assistant at the funeral home. Misty has stolen formaldehyde to smoke in joints. In the corner, a fat racoon has died, a half-carcass mama shrouded by skeletons of her babies. “Truly living,” Dina says as Darlene slams a beer. “To die in such a way, with each other.” Dina feels instantaneously drunk.

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Our Friend

        One week ago, the River Phoenix Fan Club met for the first time in the city.

        Our friend, who loves Madonna more, but attended anyway, never made it back.

        Street lamp fritz. Above the car, a mourning Autumn sky where we will joyride for infinity. A moment we must remember when we are older, of slightly larger width: The wind, part gritty, part cornfield, edges of air populating encroachment. The fluorescent buzz fades. Moths slam glass, as if to get under skin. Here we are in the search party.
        We are calling his name. The swift beat in the pit of our legs, glutes want for a stop sign. Rows of stalks, half-green, half-wilt, enough ears to hear. I bite a cob, yellow-white kernels dribble down my chin. Voices scramble, rise, disappear. Car running. Someone walking so slowly, we think they are dead. Where are you? we say. Where are you! we say, no longer interrogative, but a declarative. Voice as map: X for here, O for there.
        Walking hours in the same direction. “Didn’t we see that house before?” Elijah says. On the ridge a house in the holler, plumes of smoke chimney black and confusing. The parking lot near, but our vicinity to it expands. A lost shoe, a sprained knee, a lack of oxygen. The trees lean closely, listen. Circle one way, circle the opposite. The whiskey is gone, and everyone slurs. Eventually, the bridge reappears. Eventually, the holler is far away. Eventually, the house no longer exists, a woodstove in the back of our tongues. No one admits we were lost. No one admits there is no way we could have been lost at all.

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River Jude Phoenix (Bottom)

To wrap our arms around love
             October & bones

The first time we saw you we knew of divinity
           we call

your fan hotline             busy tonight

          we’re sorry, this number


             no longer in service
                                                    please try your call


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