Bear Lake Leeches and Ear Infections

by Indigo Purdy


I stood in a training bra and underwear, crossing my legs and arms. 

The late day sun reflected calming gold hues, and I expected it to warm me

Like alcohol warmed my aunt’s chest and laugh, a hundred feet from shore.


Knee deep in pinpricks, I plunged

Too far and came up with gravel trying to fossilize in my hands.

My scalp felt like it was shrinking against my head,

Away from whirring wind. On a driftwood bench,

Sand granules, splinters, thin underwear,

I pleaded a dying sliver of sun to dry the drops racing down.

All drops except one rolling upward.


My legs rose before my voice, and I spun around

To examine what could have been a rotted leaf scaling my calf.

Then it became speckled in beige.

Three feet away from me and dying, and yet I yelped and hucked a stone. 

A squish and a crunch, rock to flesh to grain, much redder than I anticipated.


I gave myself a security pat down as I dressed,

Bone dry jeans resisting after-dark dampness. 

Barren arms, dilating pupils, a fuzzy outline of a boulder or is it the car?

All more urgent than a languid throbbing in my right ear.


In the staleness of my aunt’s trailer, her ethanol breath

Hollers were the only sounds. Her brother, sober with discomfort, 

Waved away bottles in his face, each time with more force.

I sunk down in my corner of the booth, 

Half with the red hot burn of my hand against my ear, 

Half to shrink down to an unnoticeable size.


Outside, their intermingled dispute faded into a gurgle 

Of warm olive oil and cotton balls.

Never before then had ibuprofen gone down without a bumpy road down my throat—

Fevers, rust flavored gagging, brothers forcing it, brick stain on my tongue—

Itchy wool blankets and muffling cotton softened my uncle’s revving engine to a hum.

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