Delisa Mulkey: The Hitchhiker

My first one had a dog with him.
I was 16 and he caught me
staring at the naked girl
tattooed on his arm:
he laughed rough,
like whiskers, and full of phlegm.
He smelled like a dog in summer
looking for meat, ready to mate.
He said something cool like
It’s hotter’n a gator’s back in July
as he slid into my air conditioning.
After that I looked for them,
opening my door to men
strewn along the shoulder
like blownout retreads.
Men who told stories like country songs
and smiled through lips thin
as the blade of my red pocketknife.
The last one, I thought,
must have been some divine
retribution for my acts of kindness:
A man with a 12-string guitar
and eyes blue as a fresh bruise.
Said I could call him Rhodes,
kissed the top of my hand
and played a song for me,
something about liking
the look of a girl’s sandals
at the foot of his bed. So I
told him about Ed Gein,
who raided cemeteries
and kept nine salted vulvas
under his bed-strung noses,
lips, nipples and wore them as belts,
bracelets, hair bows-sat naked
on a sofa upholstered in skin,
the underside rough with fat,
and loved his mother.
I told him about how soon
that was not enough.
About how he began taking
live victims, women, and danced
under a full Wisconsin moon
wearing what was left of them.
About how Norman Bates
and Buffalo Bill didn’t really
do the true story justice.
A few miles down the highway,
Rhodes asked to me to stop.
Just stop. I didn’t ask why.
But I did tell him not to worry,
some people’d fuck a pile of rocks
if they thought a snake was inside.
Rhodes sat there letting his eyes tear up,
maybe thinking about that girl’s feet
instead of her sandals. I smiled,
pulled over to the shoulder
like he asked and watched him
just sitting there, hugging
the guitar case, curved
like the trunk of a woman’s body.

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