Alligator Fight by Ariel Herbert

We were the kind of girls

that brought a bat to prom,

smoked cigarettes in the parking lot,

sequined party dresses cut

above the knee, trim calves bursting

from black heels, curls falling

flat in the humidity,

the kind of girls that shotgunned beers,

belched reapplying our lipstick,

popped in a peppermint to walk

past the vice principal and into the disco lights,

hungry for music, to move our bodies

on a dark dance floor until we felt

something, anything, less alone.

Maybe it was the heat that made us

crazy, girls with sharp tongues,

skin thick as dragon scales,

and though I don’t remember ever starting a fight,

we sure as hell finished a few of them,

at an afterparty, in someone’s backyard,

some wild thing coming at us with the broken neck

of a beer bottle, painted lips open, hissing

about territory or cheating girlfriends.

Or the blackout rage of some dude pissing

where he shouldn’t, and putting his hands up,

bowing out of the scene, only after one of us flashed

a blade and a smile like we meant it.

We were some kind of royalty, girls

who held court in the open, trial 

by combat. It didn’t always matter

who was right, only who won,

even if it was our own 

blood streaked on the grass,

 a few teeth in the mud.

Arielle Hebert is a queer poet based in Durham, NC. She holds an MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Great River Review, Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry, and Willow Springs,among others. She was a finalist for the 2021 Pink Poetry Prize, and won the 2020 Claire Keyes Poetry Award judged by Erika Meitner and the 2019 North Carolina State University poetry contest judged by Ada Limón. Arielle believes in ghosts and magic.

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