I Have Cried Off All My Makeup

on a Tuesday. The marching band
sweating on the dry grass below the clock tower
disgorges its spit valves, primes the batons
for maximum sincerity. I huddle behind
my office door in the dark. In the hallway,
Margot is looking for a stapler.
She knocks on all the doors.
She cannot be satisfied, and for the first time,
I understand her, her wiglet askew, eyeliner
cracked up in crow’s feet. Margot doesn’t want
your mini stapler, your tot stapler, your pocket
stapler, Jeff—she needs
security, has worked too hard
for it all to fall apart. I hold my CV
as proof I am real. It’s true I am not
exactly living in my car, but it is also true
I am not exactly living anywhere else.
I’ve forgotten what’s in the boxes
I markered with my name
and what could bring me to need
what’s inside. I spirit into the swank
and seedy, a diplomat brokering accords
with desire. Men have trouble guessing my age
which makes it hard for them to know
in which way to dismiss me. Each twilight
I pull out a map to sleep, drive
down truant streets and kids with night
in their eyes. Me a mouth in search of words.
Toledo’s teeth of glass and wood.
Without mountains I don’t know where I am
and wind to the river, ask its banks
what it is they are hungry for. Is it me?
Is it my children? Is this where my own
have gone? I’m forgetting if I remembered
to make them. I am beloved
and only the river knows my name.
My head is underwater.
On the banks, children wave.
Their parents shout good luck.

Erin Adair-Hodges is the author of Let’s All Die Happy, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. Recipient of The Sewanee Review’s Allen Tate Prize and the Loraine Williams Prize from The Georgia Review, her work has been featured in such places as PBS NewsHour, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Rumpus and more. Born and raised in New Mexico, she is now an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Central Missouri and the co-editor for Pleiades.