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At 17
by Ginger Beck

At 17
     Summer was hot.
We stayed out late
and swam in neighbors pools.
We rode the same loop
     Through 3 red lights in town
     No cell phones
For Moms and Dads to find us.

At 17
     I made a 28 on my ACT
     Tried so hard to fight senior-itis
Worked at the video store
     For gas money and free movies
Rewinding rewinding rewinding
Sneaking a peek at people’s
     rental history.
Mr. Nelson rented Showgirls
     a lot.

At 17
     I cried in the bathroom
With the stick showing two lines.
     Fear shaking my bones
My marrow made of terror.
The maternity clothes were
     Hideous.
I cried in the dressing room at
     JCPenneys.
Tried not to retch in Spanish class.

At 17
     I let them plan a wedding.
No shotguns involved but
     a mistake all the same.
Married over Christmas break.
     My new last name imprinted
On my diploma.
Hard to know who I was anymore.
     Someone’s wife?
     Someone’s mother?

At 17
     I moved out after graduation.
$250-a-month matchbox house.
     Friends went to Mexico
And Florida for senior trips.
     I went to the OBGYN
And sweltered like a beast
     In the summer heat.

At 18,
     I gave birth and
My heart left my body
     to become a physical
Embodiment here on Earth.
     With hands and feet
And a head of black hair.
     I blinked once
          Twice.
     And she is now 17, 18, 19.

At 17
     I wouldn’t have believed it
If you told me.
     How fast time goes.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: At 17, high waisted jeans ruled the world. Me, age 17, laying around in my room with friends. The calm before the storm (1996).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ginger Beck is a tattoo artist, tarot reader, and English teacher in Little Rock, Arkansas. She advocates for at-risk youth, sings in a band, and is obsessed with dinosaurs and outer space. She lives with a 14-year-old poodle, a pitbull, and a hedgehog, now that her 19-year-old daughter is off at college. Her most recent work appears in Foliate Oak, The Molotov Cocktail, Red Savina Review, Blue Lyra Review, Gravel, Mamalode, and Intrinsick. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.