Keepsake – by Sherre Vernon

Bus ticket in her pocket
she shuffles past
the other passengers—
those sleeping & those huddled
in for the rain. She will spend
her ten minutes outside
in good orthopedics, crunching
between the black ice
of the highway & what’s left
of the city grass. As she moves
toward the door, she digs
for her cigarettes, finds
the pack empty & gives it a little
toss toward the can behind
the driver. Misses. He looks back,
says, woah there pretty lady
& winks. He drops her trash
in the can as she makes her way
past. Now don’t stay out there
too long. But she’s been waiting
her whole life for this. This leaving
without saying & needing to feed
no one but herself. This travelling
through tarmac & trees with a man
who talks in thick drawl & doesn’t mind
her teeth, who rubs her back at night
while she lays awake & doesn’t speak
of her children. Out there, in the cold,
he gives her a smoke. He’s lit it for her
already—& by god, I’m happy. You don’t
know what your mother will leave you,
when her phone has run out of minutes
& battery & she promises she’ll call
from a landline. I won’t know when
she gets there, where there is, or if there’s
a box that was hers with a photo in it,
a photo of her standing near a horse, or a house,
with family, or alone. No, I have only this story
of her smiling at a stranger calling
her pretty, wrapping her arms
around herself through the diesel
of the bus exhaust & saying
she’s ready to go back in.

Sherre VernonSherre Vernon is the award-winning author of Green Ink Wings (Elixir Press) and The Name Is Perilous (Power of Poetry). Her debut full-length poetry collection, Flame Nebula, Bright Nova, was released in 2022 by Main Street Rag. Sherre has been published in journals such as TAB and The Chestnut Review, nominated for Best of the Net, and anthologized in several collections including Fat & Queer and Best Small Fictions. Read more of her work at