Strange Relationship
by Sarah Lilius

It starts with one white stick,
fragile paper wraps tobacco.
I’m 17 in the Burger King office.

I try to inhale slow, then faster.
Dizzy, I look around at the silver
counters, fryers, through

the tiny window where my boss
feels charitable. I cough and
realize I want more oblivion.

I give rides to a short man
with curls who resembles
Prince. This is all true.

We always stop
at the liquor store to buy
the hard stuff.

He gets me a pack for payment.
I take him to a trailer park
where I imagine his small

Prince-looking children
greet him but he doesn’t
play. He cracks open his booze,

turns on the television
to watch a VH1 special
about Prince and his rise to fame.

We constantly smell like grease,
sticky odor, we are gentle makers
of burgers and fries.

The fast food industry
isn’t really that fast.
We’re always driving slowly away.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Myself as a teenager at my parents’ house.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem after Prince died and I remembered the man who I worked with as a teenager. Burger King was a bad influence on me. I was introduced to smoking from a manager. Other parts of my life weren’t so great. I just remember it being a troubling time in my teenaged life.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Lilius is the author of the chapbooks What Becomes Within (ELJ Editions, 2014) and The Heart Factory (Black Cat Moon Press, 2016). She also has a chapbook forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press early next year. Some of her journal publication credits include the Denver Quarterly, Silver Birch Press, Court Green, BlazeVOX, Bluestem, Tinderbox, Hermeneutic Chaos, Stirring, Luna Luna Magazine, Entropy, and Flapperhouse. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband and two sons. Her website is