By Ava O’Malley 

How could I be homesick for a place
I so badly wanted to escape?
How dare I miss the dirty sand,
Littered with broken plastic bottle caps,
mistaken for sea glass?
How could I miss a city that artists skip on tour,
in favor of a capital that has less to offer?
How could I miss the town
That I ran from with tears in my eyes?

And now all I want is to speak of this place,
Full of the people that I’ve grown to love and hate,
Cloaked in a humble blue-collared haze that I sing my praises for.
It is my home.
It is sunsets on Lake Erie in early June,
When the brambles behind my house bubble up with blackberries.
It is sneaking out of my sliding screen door
to climb into the pickup truck passenger seat
of a butch woman that I want to kiss
as we drive past silent soy bean fields.
It is dandelions and rusty nails living in harmony on the tree lawns.
It is quiet neighborhoods full of the ghosts of tired Irish Catholics,
The bodies of O’Learys and Daileys and McDermotts
Buried beneath the canal that brought rich men their business.
It is a place that I often have to sell to my friends,
Or else they would never come visit.

But have you been there? Have you been queer here? Have you woken up at 5am
To run to the glowing lake’s edge and feel it kiss your toes with calming coldness
and see a poor dead fish bobbing grotesquely at the same time?

Are you from a place where rivers catch fire?
Are you?

Ava O’Malley is a Cleveland-born writer living in Chicago, IL. O’Malley graduated with her bachelor’s in journalism and Spanish from DePaul University in June, 2022, and is continuing on as a Master’s in Writing and Publishing student at the same university. Her writing, which spans creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry and reporting, often focuses on queer identity, spirituality, and memory.