Kelly Burgess - Photography Portfolio

Under red skies,

I tell you when dawn breaks and

when the night loses its hiss.

And I tell you nothing - a story beginning:

I am trying to outrun my own life again. I have

measured this not by time or by miles

but by the shifting landscape of gas stations.

Irvings give way to Sheetz and before you know it

I’m in Kum & Go territory. I leave a Conoco

and now I’m here,

all the way across the country,

filling up at a Chevron with my back to the car at the pump next to me.

I have reached the ocean.

I have reached the limits of where I can drive away to,

me from my life, the thing that inhabits its own space somehow separate from my body.

I wonder how long it will take

to catch up to me this time, having to travel 3,000 miles.

Across state lines, time zones, mountain ranges,

empty prairie, monuments, and so many rivers.

I have never seen so many rivers.

I am outrunning well-meaning questions like if I’ve thought about going to see someone,

or picking up a hobby,

or have I tried yoga?

Does the sun make you feel good?

Does the cool wind lift the hair from your face?


Eventually the questions stop coming,

the wind stops blowing, the sun goes down.

This is the part where I tell you it’s all going to be fine.

But really, I can never tell where this is going.

I pretended that time was the only truth we needed.

I could go on forever about my Spring,

and with it comes the new promises I will be waking up to.

Headed nowhere, a winter comes and goes.

Living day by day.

It was approaching midnight when he met me at the base of Black Mountain.

Our nights were getting longer; sparks becoming embers.

I came back.

I watched him as he thought to ask why,

but left the question to live on the tip of his tongue.

Why start asking questions now?

The evening’s blue bloomed

like a new bruise

and by the end of the night, the mouth

that contained the tip of his tongue

was at my throat and his hands tangled in my hair.

I had already promised him too much.

It’s not until morning that I can catch my breath and nurse my own blooming blues.

But every night I go to bed somewhere different and in the dark,

I forget where I am. There were fireworks the night we met,

in a summer of saying yesses.

With your back to me in the beds you pushed together at last, I finally slept.

I crossed the threshold where I no longer laid awake

and traced your shape in the foggy pre-dawn. I know what it means.

Is it a dream?

Is it a dream?

Since when is the world so callow and raw? In another life

I was lush. I was plenty. I was fertile.

I was the swollen river you drank from.

I was not beyond description then. I am

pinned in place by the past and it has been like that for years.

There are no simple things,

no easy answers.

The rain either comes or it goes, the river swells or the bed cracks in the heat.

I knew that when I left you, left the city,

it was for the last time.

I’ll never be back. On New Year’s Eve,

when the clock chimed with the changing of the year,

I wrote your name on a piece of paper.

Folded twice.

I threw it in the river and watched the water carry you away.

Every person carries magic inside of them, and this is mine.

Salt on the kitchen floor, wildflowers, a ring around the toilet bowl, a trail of toast crumbs, a caress, deepening shadows under my eyes, an engine turns over, and I’m sure there are clocks ticking somewhere. I know. The wind against my window has been the only visitor I’ve had in weeks. I wish I had never told anyone about you. I wish your memory had nowhere to live but inside my body.

This was the year I planted no roses. But my blood still sprung up against the heat, and in my memories you brushed the red from my cheeks.

So I leave you like this. The camera knows the things out of sight’s reach; it relishes our losses and promises to recall them as pearls - if only memory would be willing to toughen its grip.
Using Format