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Candice Kelsey

Candice Kelsey is an educator and poet living in Georgia. She serves as a creative writing mentor with PEN America's Prison & Justice Writing Program. Her work appears in Grub Street, Poet Lore, Lumiere Review, Hawai'i Pacific Review, and Poetry South among other journals. Recently, she was chosen as a finalist in Cutthroat's Joy Harjo Poetry Prize. Find her @candicekelsey1 and

Before She Leaves

like they left the motel across the Utah


state line, that night they drove 17 hours straight.

Does he remember? 


No vacancy from Scott City to St. George. 


She wants to give him something like that room 

where they slept with its grime


& stench & obscenity & shame


like a bundle. She gives him something before she leaves,

so he’ll know they cannot go another day 


together, cannot cross another state line together: 


Take this pit— she releases her heavy emptiness 

from her chest: It’s fine


& it’s alright & it’s okay & stop crying


now. It’s his to have, and it’s him it haunts

like truck-stop shadows under the Love’s sign


mocking them that night. She can now

declare Vacancy.

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