Combustion- Carly Heider


This Virginia heat is killing me.


and things begin to simmer.


and things get hazy.

I stand screaming from the outside

that your happiness is only

a mirage.


and tempers start to rise with the temperature.


and red flags are glaring,

yet you are still daring

to drink the water,

trying to stay cool.


and you keep opening the door

to fan in conversation,

close it when he comes around,

close it

when you don’t like the sound

of sizzling truth.


and I strive

to rescue you

before you are burnt alive.


and you and I are both sick of this talk.


and this friendship starts melting.

You cling to him

while letting go of me.


and we reach a boiling point

as I watch the danger unfold

through a piece of broken glass,

but in there, it’s


and you insist that “it’s fine.”

You sweat out your troubles together,

while out here

your troubles

are making me sweat.


and I’ve seen this before,

so I tell you again

that as your friend

I am burnt with worry,

catching fire with concern,

but you just ride the heat wave

because you’d rather combust

than catch a cold.


and this Virginia heat

is killing me.


Every now and then, I flee this small town and
drive the endless hours up north,
128 miles on long, lonely stretches of highways.
I sing to myself for four hours,
songs of sentimentality and homesickness,
songs that make me feel less alone.
I am greeted by potholes as I cross state lines,
followed by a sign that reads “Pennsylvania welcomes you!”
The farther north I go,
the higher the gas prices climb.
When they reach $3.09, I know I am not far
from the place that built me.
Nothing changes
no matter how long I leave
or how far I go.
More businesses close,
more try to take their place,
but few ever make it
for there are too many chains.
Only a few remain,
like Skis and Nicks,
the dive bar up the street,
where everyone either knows your name
or if you are an outsider.
Mom waits eagerly at the front door when I arrive
like a puppy awaiting their companion’s return.
She hugs me tight before I can even set my bags down,
as though she wasn’t sure
I would actually come home.
There is no hug like a mother’s hug
to make you feel safe
in such a dangerous world.
The streets around here are only safe in certain parts of town,
dependant on time of day and skin color.
Some are inviting and filled with culture and life,
some you simply don’t walk down alone
at night.
My roots grew here,
in the industrialized soil
watered by manufactured rain.
They grew until they touched state lines
and new rain came calling.
A rain unstained by steel,
a rain that did not reek of sulfur.
Driving away feels like an escape.
128 miles south
to a place where new seeds have been planted
in a state for lovers,
where the holes in the road disappear,
where the smell of farms is always near,
and the stench of cows is oddly comforting.
Where strangers ask how you are,
and instead of “yinz,”
they say “y’all.”
A place carved out in the Blue Ridge
with mountains on each side.
A place full of peace and color
and a community
that thrives.
A place with old school roots
but love for all people,
homegrown or newly local.
The southern wind came calling,
and I answered,
“I can call this home,”
as new branches started to grow
out from old roots.

About the contributor

Carly Heider's roots were first set in Pittsburgh, but have expanded to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where she is a middle school English teacher and an aspiring writer of poetry and prose that follow themes of love, heartbreak, hope, change, trauma, and healing. She says, 'Where my voice fails, my writing speaks'.

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