We arrived in a thunderstorm: lightning fingers shot down, pinning horizon
to dark highway. Then the low rumble. Taut Dakota midnight. For weeks
you’d made me promise to avoid photos, insisting I see firsthand the slopes
of ancient clay rising from the prairie. Rain fought the roof of our rental;
the guard shone his light on our faces, said it was a bad night for camping.
We took the last motel room on the grounds. Left the drapes open. Awoke
to millennia of striated sediment, red brown white brown grey brown red.
Miles of overlapping mounds like scars healing upward. Flesh colors,
bone colors. For a moment we might have been saved: your hand drifted
into mine, we breathed in the weird glory and beheld. What mattered
then were the tiny lines on your palm I traced with my thumb, thinking
how familiar, thinking how vast the sky, thinking how far from home.
Betsy Housten is a Pushcart-nominated queer writer and massage therapist. Her work appears in Memoir Mixtapes, Longleaf Review, Glassworks Magazine, Little Red Tarot, NILVX, and We’ll Never Have Paris. Jersey-born and Brooklyn-bred, she currently lives in New Orleans, where she is pursuing her MFA in poetry.