Up North


by Josefine Stargardt

There were cows outside,
rubbing their muzzles
against each other’s necks,
breathing steam and gazing at the car.
She had parked by the side of the road,
turned in her seat and spoken about authenticity,
about living life authentic to oneself.
My eyes roved the car,
touched the windshield, the dashboard,
her hand resting on the steering wheel.
I held my own hand, reminding myself of my body—
knuckles, bones and layers of skin,
a stomach curling in on itself.
Fear pushed my diaphragm upward
against my lungs; my mind ripped itself to shreds.
I was taking up too much space,
I needed to be less, to be almost nothing,
a shallow sip of breath fogging up the window
of a car up on some hill—
she reached out her hand, let it rest on my forearm,
a crooked curve of warmth,
she held me together with her touch.
Are you coping? she asked.
Ahead, the road sped downward, dipped
toward the town whose houses always clung so tightly to their roofs.

Josefine Stargardt is a bilingual poet based in Germany and the UK. She is currently completing a BA in English at Leipzig University. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Homology Lit, Honey & Lime, The Cardiff Review, and several anthologies. In her spare time, she sells ice cream and works on her image as a cat lady.


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