Lauren Crawford

First Day

Never had I seen ridiculous money the way I saw parents line up with their daughters on the first day of horse camp. For a fat stack of green, they’d pack themselves into the lodge and hand over a girl, teary-balmed and clutching a stuffie. They’d brag in line about their boats lining the gulf while they ducked under the flags fluttering from the rutted roof slats and question the colors brandished on the silks. What flag is that? they’d bark. We’d sort the girls and I’d check their oily heads for lice with coffee straws and I could smell the mischief on them like artificial sugar; pent up in them like a mare in heat. Oh, how they’d stamp their feet in place while I weeded through, taking a roster or checking off which ones needed Vyvanse. How they’d paw at the doorframes and swing themselves around the flagpole with their mouths hanging wide open, sucking in the piney wind. The girls simply had no time to watch the Parent Dash, we called it; hardy even heard the goodbyes once they had our 96 acres of green between their teeth. Still, I’d watch each parent book it down the grit road to their SUV’s and light up their first cigarette the second they could and I imagined that’s what true freedom tasted like under the unbearably pink blister of Texas in July; leaving behind whatever parts of yourself you wanted for a wad of cash, and loving someone you wish you never had to see again.

About the Author

Lauren Crawford holds an MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale where she served as an associate editor for Crab Orchard Review. A native of Houston, Texas, she is the recipient of the 2023 Willie Morris Award for Southern Poetry and the second place winner of the 2020 Louisiana State Poetry Society Award from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, and her poetry has either appeared or is forthcoming in Poet Lore, Passengers Journal, The Appalachian Review, The American Journal of Poetry, The Midwest Quarterly, The Worcester Review, The Spectacle, and elsewhere. Lauren currently teaches writing at the University of New Haven with her husband and serves as a reader for Palette Poetry. Find her on Twitter @LaurenCraw4d.