Alan Catlin

There are no innocents

“I think you just need more experience to
understand hell as something possibly good”
—Eileen Myles

Long before they are legal
they try to crash the bars
with older sister’s photo ID’s
or the ones they stole from purses,
rifled for valuables, they lifted from
under bathroom stall doors in public
toilets or from pole hangers on
subways, buses, perfecting their
grab and run techniques as downtown
locals pull into stations for a stop.

Trying to pass cancelled plastic
is a game they play at chain stores
or supermarkets, claiming their
stepmoms had sent them on errands,
how were they supposed to know cards
were cancelled, maxed, expired?
all the while praying no one would
call their bluff.

If there was a black market
drug they hadn’t done twice, it hadn’t
made the rounds, or, was still
in an experimental stage.

The only books they’d read
since they’d reached the age
of reason were sex manuals they’d
committed to memory and perfected,
practicing their positions on men
older than their fathers if they had
lived long enough to reach the age of thirty.

Without makeup, mid-thigh miniskirts
and hair in pigtails, they might pass for
cute young things discussing their
sweet sixteen parties or dresses they’d
like to buy for their prom, instead of
whether they should hook for the money
to score some blotter and a lid, or whether
they should roll some old lady in an
alley for her grocery money and rent.

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