Leaving Alabama in 1987

by Alexandra Palmer

I am driving Northeast, old jazz wafting
from my car radio—humid, and leather-toned.
Duke Ellington’s tune drizzles
She’s a different lady with a different style,
and I glance down at my green skirt on
gray thighs. My dimpled confidence collides
with sax and piano riffs, and I feel self-conscious
of the bleach in my skin. My cheeks flush
darker. I feel self-conscious for gray bark
wearing green leaves and blush blossoms.

I cannot help but wonder if New York
will swallow the non-standard on my tongue.
To Alabama, it still tastes unsavory,
like roquefort—tang potent and grassy,
pocketed with mold. I am cream, flecked
with dark veins.