Look Beyond a Dead Sea

Jace Raymond Smellie


Doubt is like a rip in my esophagus.

The sulfur works its way in as we tear

down the interstate toward a promised land.

Tension lies weightless between

a fuzzy radio and empty cup holders.

Its flow is mutual and unrestrained.


As buzzing traffic flies, I want to break

down on the side of the road

or crash and split into shards

so sharp and miniscule

you’d never notice me again if

you didn’t want to. Someday

maybe, but now you’re driving—

eyes bent down on the road.


Debilitated, I look west toward salt

and a dead sea. I see mountains,

and I see haze.

We’ll rebuild. We always do.


You cruise in the fast lane. Typical.

I find someone walking in the salt,

a little boy with dark skin.

His thick hair blows in the wind.

Red shirt and blue shorts.


He points out at the sea.

He glances back to me,

his finger toward the horizon,

beyond what I can see.


You keep driving.

I can’t see him anymore.

I notice my door is unlocked.

I stare at your face.

I rest my fingers on the handle.

I find leather seats uncomfortable

and uninviting. They feel cold

and stuck up.


I think of pillows made by kids

in Indonesia and Vietnam

resting on leather couches.

I think of bare kitchen counters

made of the finest granite or marble

where no one eats.

I think of carpet halls where

candles try to cover the odor

of a burnt vacuum belt.


I think of the home you want.


Jace Raymond Smellie is in the final semester of his BA in Creative Writing at Utah State University. He grew up in the sagebrush hills of southeastern Idaho, but he considers anywhere from Idaho to Arizona as his home. In his rare spare time away from school, work, and his writing desk, he plays in competitive disc golf tournaments. Jace’s literary work is forthcoming in 30 N, Sucarnochee Review, and local publications.