THIS IS A STORY ABOUT SETTING FIRE TO A GRAVEYARD – Patricia McCrystal

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Image: Paweł Czerwiński

Someone set fire to the graveyard this morning. It wasn’t like anything you’ve ever seen. I didn’t get emotional when I saw it, unlike the blue hairs who stopped their Buicks on the side of 44th, genuflecting and crying and clutching the crosses around their necks. I pulled my truck over and got out just as sirens started up out east. I expected it to smell bad, like maybe the bodies and coffins would start burning too, but it just smelled like a campfire. I loved that smell. Especially with ribbons of raw venison skewered over top, blood and fat dripping into the heart of the pit. A thermos of whiskey in one hand and your old man leaning back in the chair adjacent, rolling smokes slow and careful like he’s got all the time in the world.

The fire felt right. Like cleansing the clutter that’s grown so slowly you don’t even notice until you can see it in the corners of your eyes when you try to relax. I’m not saying I did it, or that I even know who did. I’m just saying it didn’t strike me as an evil deed. I wish it could have been that easy when we gutted dad’s house and piled everything on the lawn for the estate sale. Just haul out that saggy blue couch and old tube TV and rip up the baby puke carpet and douse it all with a healthy dose of Boy Scout water and light it up. Howdy, Mrs. Johnson! Come on out from behind those curtains and bring some marshmallows! Dad would have wanted it that way, I bet. 

Maybe an angel started the fire as a favor to the overused land. Fire brings up fresh grass and stronger trees. Maybe Michael the Archangel snuck down here with a can of lighter fluid. Maybe he knows that graveyards are a vanity that were never God’s wanting. Boy was that fire something. 

Whoever did it knew what they were doing. When firemen started spraying water all over, I considered how much gasoline it would have taken to make sure those flames burned as fast and hot as they did. We’ve had a wet spring, so it wouldn’t have been easy. Then again, whoever did it could have gotten creative and sided with the three S’s — sodium chlorate crystals, sugar, and sulfuric acid. I sniffed the air. It was hard to say.

An old woman put her hand on my shoulder and asked if I had a relative in the graveyard on account of me watching for so long. Yes, I told her. She waited for more. Then her wrinkled face puckered up like a dog’s asshole and she went back to crying and saying over and over again Lord have mercy. I wanted to tell her, he does. Look straight ahead.

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Patricia McCrystal is the recent recipient of the Slippery Elm Prose Prize and the founder of VIRAGO, a womxn’s writing circle. Her work can be found on PBS and in Heavy Feather Review, South Broadway Ghost Society, Birdy Magazine, and more. She’s pursuing her MFA in Fiction at Regis University.

Notes Toward an Essay on the Evolution from Postmodernism to Metamodernism as Tracked Through Popular Comedic Forms. – Wesley Hunt

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Image: Paweł Czerwiński

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Track the progression of comedic methodologies from the 1990s through the early and late 2000s, as demonstrated in the different stages of The Simpsons (from satire—early ‘90s—to sitcom—mid ‘90s—to absurdist comedy—late ‘90s—to deconstructionist meta-parody—early 2000s—to randomized pop cultural overload—current)—as a show that persisted while changing to align with the comedic zeitgeist, to demonstrate the shift from postmodernism to metamodernism. Do this and don’t look out your window—one of many belonging to the tenement building you and your father have lived in all your life—and, whatever you do, definitely don’t go out the door and catch a cab to the hospice, at least not until you’re finished.

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Connect these Simpson-stage-shifts to the shifts orchestrated by other popular comedies.

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Anchor Man (which you and Dad would quote), in tandem with Family Guy (which only you would quote) popularized the absurdist non-sequitur pop cultural references and self-referential allusions to the pop cultural references (the ones they make). Anchorman as the shift toward absurdity and Family Guy toward non-sequitur meta-referential pop culture—FG commenting on the humor of Will Ferrell, and eventually even on itself (deconstruction). Simpsons had to change to keep up.

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Remember the hinder-sounds of the door opening and closing around 8pm every night—after the two of you ate dinner, where he helped you with your homework, and if you finished quick enough he’d watch the first fifteen minutes of a rerun with you while getting ready (this happened less and less as you both grew older)—and how you’d strike out all the lights, after he’d said love you as the door shut, so the room danced with the shadows of the movement on the screen, and remained there in the dancing light until the door opened and closed again, around 6am (this time without a love you but instead a soft groan), and until the dancing shadows drowned in the sunlight streaming through the window you rarely looked out then, back when he could work, and even more rarely now.

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Connect to Frederic Jameson’s diagnoses of postmodern culture, and thereby late capitalism, as schizophrenic—i.e. extends the symptoms of the psychoanalytic qualifications of Schizophrenia (unable to accede into the realm of language, thereby unable to form a solid identity—no “I”=no ego) to the masses in the form of pop cultural overload of disconnected webs of signifiers (e.g. MTV rapid fire television) that confuse the subject and make critical thinking near impossible—let alone clear thinking, let alone human connection outside the network of pop-cultural reference. Argue that pop culture has only increased its rapid fire pace.

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Connect to escaping into the naked glow in the dark of the living/dining room (first from the television, then the computer, now both), and to the way the nature of that escape changed as plot and image changed, and how the shouting and the crying and the laughing from the other apartments, and out the window, first made the quiet of yours feel loud but eventually became indistinguishable from the shouting and crying and laughing from the screen and from your body, as did the hinder-sounds of the door opening and closing and the love you’s and soft groans (which became first a light cough and then a violent hack and then a quiet but constant groan that you barely hear anymore because you don’t visit the hospice).

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In postmodern pop culture the rapid fire imagery was slow enough to still allow for some forms of critique—thus the satire, sitcom, and abusurdist stages of the Simpsons. He wasn’t sick during these stages, though the coughing began toward the end of the third.

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Anchorman as the justification for the type of absurd humor that makes the pop references of Family Guy a valid form—i.e. it executed absurdity in such a way that the masses could embrace. This is the limit of postmodernism and thereby late capitalism. The overload of the convoluted webs of interwoven signifying chains as only made possible by the existence of the internet. This shift is the movement toward meta-modernism: e.g. Youtube culture. You remember this shift because he bought a computer, despite the voicemails from the medical billing agencies, and he gave it to you for homework and said Stay classy San Diego, and instead of saying thank you, you said I feel like a talking baby punching Ferrell in the face for making Bewitched—in a good way, and he might have laughed were it not for the coughing and for not getting the reference.

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Family Guy and Simpsons picked up on this shift, and the rapid-fire webs of signifiers became more convoluted, randomized, and meaningless outside of its own network of reference. He thought the Simpsons had fallen off. You disagreed.

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Argue that postmodernism was less insidious than metamodernism because the speed and volume of despotic webs of signifiers has exploded with the development of the internet. The overload of self-referential nonsense make subversive critique near-impossible in that it is sucked into the meta-ironic whirlwind. When Dad said love you, you used to say it back, but then you just started to quote shows, and he knew what you meant; then you started to quote YouTube videos of clips from shows, and he didn’t.

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Finish this soon so he can read it before he dies.

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Wesley Hunt hails from Baltimore, Maryland, and is a writer, experimental filmmaker, musician, and connoisseur of fine Salisbury steak. He is a former editor at the literary magazine The Welter, and graduate of University of Baltimore. His words have appeared in publications such as Horror Sleaze Trash and The Fine Print. Listen to his music at treeforts.bandcamp.com. Or don’t. This is a democracy, after all.

Dog Sons – Terri Witek

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I ask my sons about dogs. Today, dogs in paintings: why a dark tail curls out beneath the monk’s robe as he strangles a dog. My sons don’t eyeroll, even the living one. They look at me the way dogs do, wet and directly.

My live son asks what’s inside a dog and my dead son says shit. No one nods because we’re now in a sculpture room. The dog’s pelt grabs little spaces. Maybe he’s a going-to-sea-dog: his nails scratch at a saint’s knees, shellish pelt wrinkling. My dead son asks for a spear and I say no violence. I lift an apple again or a pomegranate but it doesn’t go anywhere because stones aren’t hungry.

Outside in the city someone’s posed between wings –this time blue for the endangered scrub jay. They’ve stopped in the kitsch, shoulder-high thin spot. My live son says this is stupid but he’d do it for his child. My dead son says well that’s it for the bloodline. I stitch blue to each boy whenever the paint flecks.

Little mouths in a river tingle or twitch. Back in the origin myth I nearly fall down the same step. Someone asks why even go to term with an accident/ stormstrike/ deathray/ baby, but it’s always too soon to ask art.

I ask my dead son if he’s feral now. Because even cities get lost, even a toddler saint’s head except for one lone stone curl caught in St. Isabel’s dress. My live son knows about cutting because he’s needed transfusions. My dead son knows other things. Someone with a nosebleed leaves 6 votive kleenex.

The devil asks why he wants to be loved by boot on his belly or hand on his neck so much. Moonfaced and sad as he chokes? Call flat dog. Gut-wrenched around another stone boot? Try tide-coming-in dog. My sons hang “gone fishing” signs though one’s really out scoring weed. What’s up, asks a stair. This is the elimination round, scrub jays, so whistle whistle into the last blue city.


terri_0792Terri Witek is the author of 6 books of poems, most recently The Rape Kit, winner of the 2017 Slope Editions Prize judgedby Dawn Lundy Martin. Her poetry often traces the breakages between words and images, and has been included in American Poetry Review, Lana Turner, Poetry, Slate, Poesia Visual, Versal, and many other journals and anthologies. She has collaborated with Brazilian visual artist Cyriaco Lopes (cyriacolopes.com) since 2005–their works together include museum and gallery shows, performance and site-specific projects featured internationally in Valencia, New York, Seoul, Miami, Lisbon, and Rio de Janeiro.  Collaborations with digital artist Matt Roberts (mattroberts.com) use augmented reality technology for smart phones to poetically map cities and have been featured in Manizales (Colombia), Glasgow, Vancouver, Lisbon, Miami, Santa Fe and Orlando. Witek directs Stetson’s undergraduate creative program and with Lopes teaches Poetry in the Expanded Field in Stetson University’s low-residency MFA of the Americas.   terriwitek.com

an open letter to hannah wilke – stephanie hempel

Matt Clifford - Photo Credit Matt Diss ALOC Media

Dear Hannah,

The moon is exactly half carved of your belly, your hair is now exhausted, and your mass is so madly and how did you meet the person who lives under your flesh? The pale and ripe body that births the gesture through the exoskeleton? You stuck gum to your naked body, shaped like a series of miniature vulvas, and I put my breasts on the scanner, cut my hair, curled it next to a knife. How can I locate this body? How else could I locate this body?

And you did, and when you did, did you let yourself have it? The museum deity? The attention from the audience as they scolded you for the hairpin curve around your nipples? The chewed-up gum, your chewed-up gum, the photographer’s chewed-up gum, saliva stuck over your face, the nape your neck, the line of your pelvis, mountain crease of your hip bones. Woman covered wholly in woman.

Who chewed the gum, Hannah? Was that your own spit? The rubbing between raw flesh and the plasticity of bubble gum. Hannah, I was in Athens when I learned the rape wasn’t my fault. I was four years old and it wasn’t my fault. I was at my uncle’s house and it wasn’t my fault. My mother told me that as a child he had also been raped, also by an uncle, also so young. I tried to make sense of this while standing in the Aegean Sea, freezing, my legs turned purple and numbed but I saw the sun reflect crystalline gold onto the pigments of my skin. I saw all the ways a baptism wouldn’t save me in this human life time.

What does it mean to inhabit, Hannah? What does it mean to inhabit the life space, among organisms, possibilities, war, triumph, gallery shows? What does it mean after you’ve passed, your line break? When he touched me, I felt like the plasticity of chewing gum, rough, burning into my flesh with venomous saliva. Since then my desire to meet death has been intimate, I always feel her neighboring through the avenue of my spinal column which is all marble, all marble since age four, no more bone, no more bone.

When language doesn’t work, we turn to the body, Hannah. Language never worked for the men in my life. It only worked for me by default. Something had to work, something had to work for survival, a poesis of working.

-SOS Series, “if you look at them as gum, you’re always gonna look at them as gum but if you look at them as a metaphor, you can see what she was doing, she said the reason I use gum is because this is what men do to women, they take them in, they chew them up, and they spit them out…she knew herself, she knew how she looked, she knew what she wanted.”

and what if I do not know how I look? What if I’m merely 8 trillion sliced atoms of color plastered against a wall? What if I am non-locatable? Hannah, what do I do? Hannah, what do I do?
Hannah, what do I do?
Hannah, what do I do?
Hannah, what do I do?
Hannah, what do I do, then?

Sincerely yours beyond death-


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Stephanie Hempel is an MFA candidate at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. She is a multi-genre writer, editor, and performance artist. Her writing and art have been published in Saudade Magazine, Guttural Magazine, Osier Root Collective, and Apricity. She is the Co-Founder and Editor-In-Chief of the literary magazine, Tiny Spoon. Visit tinyspoon.org for more information about the journal.

Cover art: Charles Deluvio

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real turkey supper – summer j. hart

Matt Clifford - Photo Credit Matt Diss ALOC Media

The shadow wore Gucci.

She picked out his last suit from the stash he kept in the trunk of the Lincoln Continental GT, the one with the keypad lock. She could tap the code in her sleep.

She leaned against the kitchen island, poured Chardonnay, & waited for the meds to kick in.

After the funeral, she started cutting the suits into tiny identical squares, the way she diced tomatoes, stacking them into neat piles in the closets & under the beds.

He hovered by the dishwasher.

The tubes, oxygen, wheelchair, morphine had all become necessary evils in the end—the four fucking horsemen, he had joked, coughing & taking another drag.

This form cut a confident silhouette.

Stay awhile, I guess, how does that song go? He floated under the artificial daylight to an empty chair & held out his hand.

A constellation of tiny, jagged stars twinkled in the swirling dark of his palm. Cubic Zirconia, she thought, as they clattered onto the blonde oak table.

His sleeve began to unravel, his hand to dissipate. She wished she could see his eyes, his tell, but the darkness was fading now, sinking into the linoleum.

The Sunday after he died, she stole letters off the church marquee because what did they actually know of ghosts, holy or otherwise?

She slapped them down on the table like she was dealing: REAL TURKEY SUPPER
His silent laughter rattled the silverware.

She contemplated the empty bottle—squinted her eyes at it until it wavered & split into two. The suit had uncoiled itself into a single tangled thread, his body an inkblot on the tiles.

She pulled out leftovers from the fridge.

Cigarette smoke & unfamiliar perfume clung to the air between them.

Some things even death can’t change.

She stepped over what remained, to the microwave, & hit reheat setting 1. She stared at the slow spinning plate, counting the clunks made with each rotation.

Maybe they were diamonds this time.


SJHARTphotoSummer J. Hart is an interdisciplinary artist from Maine, living in the Hudson Valley, New York. Her written and visual narratives are influenced by folklore, superstition, divination, and forgotten territories reclaimed by nature. Her poetry appears in Northern New England Review, vol 39 & Third Point Press, Issue 14. Her mixed-media installations have been featured in galleries including Pen + Brush, NYC, Gitana Rosa Gallery at Paterson Art Factory, Paterson, NJ, & LeMieux Galleries, New Orleans, LA. She is a member of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation. WEBSITE | INLIQUID SITE

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for jay who didn’t get cable television until he was thirteen and also thinks i’m petty – jane-rebecca cannarella

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For Jay who didn’t get cable television until he was thirteen and also thinks I’m petty: And how I made fun of how he first experienced the joy that comes with cable like placing snow melt between tart teeth and getting the phantom taste of salt from the sky–or from some truck, more likely–but it’s cool because it’s good anyway. It’s the propulsion of quickly falling ice crystals and thunder from the sky that now lives inside him.

Anyone can be part of the earth’s outer atmosphere, and this is the closest to becoming a cosmic being that Jay’s ever been. And he and I are acting like those two stars in our galaxy who have begun behaving strangely: a cool giant and a relatively hot white dwarf—a stellar corpse. Outbursts of energy like when he couldn’t stay seated and was asked to sit in the corner during middle school because he was being disruptive. Now we’re both warm movement and icy at the same time and are filled with the need to rattle the desktop as the universe cycles through us. And with images being spoon-fed through eyeballs for so many years, it’s like he’s growing and cooling at the same time. Maybe I am, too.

There is the terror of so many choices, like the fear of being in the middle of the crosswalk when an ambulance is coming, silenced and stricken, and how do you run to safety when your feet are stuck to the black top? With every fuzzy sound augmented and amplified, as animated figures grow and lean—continually expanding, cable television is communicating with the divided sky and directly into every and any TV watcher, but him especially.

Jay could and can sit and watch the bleary movements and he knew, and knows, that the universe keeps growing; and when he was just thirteen he had eaten Christmas-in-July-snowflakes: the light changing across wavelengths, both astronaut and astronomer and he got cable and because of that parts of him lives in solar systems light-years away waiting to fall back to earth.


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Jane-Rebecca Cannarella is a writer and editor living in Philadelphia. She edits HOOT Review and Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit. Most recently she is the author of the flash fiction collection Better Bones and the poetry chapbook Marrow, through Thirty West Publishing, 2019. She is haunted by ghosts, all of which she believes are barnacled ships. 

Top Photo: Sven Scheuermeier

mental regurgitation – juliet cook

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1.

I was terrified of leeches when I was a girl. I was walking home from school with a boy who pointed at a hole in the ground and told me that bloodsuckers lived inside holes. When I got home, I asked my mom what a bloodsucker was. She informed me bloodsuckers were mutant worms that stuck themselves to your skin and sucked your blood and could not be pulled out with your fingers. She said the only way to get them out was to burn them.

I was extremely squeamish about blood and hellfire, and so the idea of having a big misshapen worm penetrating my flesh and swallowing my blood seemed like a horror movie scene. I saw myself fainting and falling down into a continually sucked pool of my own blood while burning in hell.

In my late teens, I found out about medicinal leeches.  When they had no idea how to treat hysterical females, they would insert the leeches into women’s vaginas, in an attempt to alleviate their mental disorders by having blood sucked out of their female parts.

Sometimes my memory exaggerates things, but I’m telling you what I remember. The bloodsucking leeches are stuck inside women’s vaginas. They are almost impossible to pull out.  Maybe that’s what it means to be a woman. Maybe you can’t control what’s stuck inside you and it will keep sucking and sucking and sucking the life out of you.

How in the hell would they remove a leech from a woman’s vagina? By sticking a cigarette inside her?  By inserting a gloved set of fingers  to probe and pry? Are there special medicinal instruments for extracting the leeches? Or for secretly inserting one inside of a woman forever?

2.

In my adult life, I still hate the gynecologist. I still worry about what might be inside me. But I’m not as squeamish about blood as I used to be. After all, menstrual blood clots have been blobbing themselves out of my vagina every month for close to 30 years, so I’m pretty used to internal blood baths.

If a leech attached itself to my body now, I think I’d be able to handle it and even take a series of photos, watching it suck enough blood until it fell off me. As a little girl, I had no idea they could ever get enough blood and fall off on their own. As a teenager, I had to investigate everything unusual on my own.

I found out that trying to remove a leech by burning is one of the least effective forms of removal, because not only does that maim or kill the leech, it also has much more potential to injure you. Even if the fire makes the leech fall off, first that injured leech will vomit the sucked blood out of its body and into your body. That bloody vomit will enter your wound.

Then the violent infection of your own wound will work its way into your womb and you will keep growing more and more infected leeches and popping them out of your vagina like a hideous infestation of babies shaped like giant worms or tiny malformed blood sucking penises.

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Juliet Cook is a grotesque glitter witch medusa hybrid brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and dark red explosions. She is drawn to poetry, abstract visual art, and other forms of expression. Her poetry has appeared in a peculiar multitude of literary publications. You can find out more at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

Photo: Erol Ahmed

sad stories of the death of kings – howie good

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I ask a friend if she can remember the last time that the stars and moon hatched from a golden egg. She doesn’t answer straightaway, just tucks a stray comma of hair back behind her ear. Because it’s one in the morning, the darkness outside is more like a solid than a liquid or a gas. I’m suddenly really tired of struggling to stay awake. The answer comes later, when I read in the paper that they sliced open a dead whale that had washed ashore and found in its belly plastic cups, plastic bottles, plastic bags, and two flip-flops.


Howie Good is the author of The Titanic Sails at Dawn (Alien Buddha Press, 2019)

Photo: Edu Lauton

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hungry ghosts – chris moore

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How to Woo a Married Woman:

• Converse on a wide variety of topics
• Share music she’s never heard before but likes
• Be physically close
• Challenge her, without conflict
• Have similar outdoor interests
• Love nature
• Notice rocks
• Be quick-witted
• Be offbeat
• Keep your mind open
• Be intelligent
• Care about things
• Give
• Have patience with her children
• Be the keeper of more than one talent
• Be thoughtful
• Be intuitive (to a fault)
• Be sensual
• Make her laugh
• Have bright eyes

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August 2010: They say that the brain doesn’t stop developing until mid-twenties, even early thirties. Guess that means I meet her at a crucial point. Twenty-four. I tell her twenty-five; my birthday just around the corner. She’s eleven years my senior and a lesson in forced autonomy. I have her and I don’t. She asks if I see my future full of options and I say yes: multiple paths yet unknown. To be settled down is her dream and I lose myself in it.

 

Lately everything is a little bit more than it seems.  Lost in a book of a back-mountain man who builds his stasis from the wood of trees much like the ones that are burning to the ground as I speak. Maybe it’s a little bit timely, maybe it’s a little bit telling: the winds that raged that Labor Day when we trailed behind a group in the woods, crossing paths with children hunkered down under backpacks, on our way to an inlet that led you and I to our private rocks of contemplation. And tonight, we can’t even talk over the winds so I hold her against me, against the porch pillar, letting passersby revel in our puzzle pieces.

 

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Dear T,

I know I gave birth to you. You wilted with your wife and said you revived my body, the way Maria did mine. But I have seen how when a body is resurrected, a war can begin inside. These disorienting dilemmas have a way of upending lives. Your former life was a carefully set table overturned in rage. I knew our life together might meet the same end. Nevertheless, I persisted.

 

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The thought just barely creeps in. It says, we can make it outside my dreams. Her eyes are reckless windows that lead directly to her soul without passing ‘go,’ without collecting two hundred dollars; precisely why I always look away. Our very separate bodies ached together, woman who oh-so-frankly called me out on the speed with which I fell. Tempted to say: told you so or oh, how the tables have turned.

 

Valentine’s Day, 2011: I rent us a room at a quaint bed and breakfast in a mountain town, fill it to overflowing with candles, lie my guitar across the bed like a naked woman. After we have dinner I bring her there. I am shy. I sing and play for her every song that has shaken us. We consume one another the rest of the night. Blood everywhere. It’s either love or death to the housekeep in the morning. Surprised they don’t call the police. The next day, she vanishes.

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Dear T,

Who are our first lovers if not our mothers? Your disappearing act was familiar to me. You were familiar to me. You were my home insofar as you were like my mother.

Baby Duck Syndrome:

  • Absence on loop.
  • A scratched compact disc.
  • Unable to advance.
  • Insane in love.
  • Insane in war.

 

Maybe the possibility that we could heal our respective mommy-traumas is what held us together for so long. In the meantime, we loved the outdoors and creating things with our four hands.

 

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December 21, 2011: We live together now. I promised her before I moved in that I wouldn’t drink.

She strands me at a billiards bar in a suburban strip mall. She rents herself a room, over an hour into the mountains and makes her angry getaway. Her disappearing act is familiar to me. I fill my bloodstream to overflowing with beer by midnight, take a taxi home, find her reservation in her email inbox. I decide to chase her down, guitar in my backseat, and serenade her back into my arms.

A couple close calls: my passenger door and the guardrail, my sideview mirror and the median. A couple of empties thrown through my open window into the dark. A couple hundred shards of glass on the snowy highway. A couple of good samaritans. A couple 911 calls. A couple of cop cars. A couple of blows: a couple tenths of a milligram per deciliter away from a coma. A couple of hands in handcuffs. A couple of mugshots. A couple hours sobbing. A couple hours sleeping. A couple hot showers in between the couple hours of sleeping. A couple of other women cry aloud in the beds around mine. A couple bus tokens the next morning. A couple miles to walk back to our home without my socks, short-sleeved in a couple feet of snow. A couple days until Christmas, a couple dissolving.

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Dear T,

Thank you, oh and fuck you, for letting me back in a few months later. I became the third or fourth mother to your children for a second time. You’ve really gotta work on your boundaries. We were a five year love affair. Drama all the time. Maybe we were caught up in the passion we had lost. We fought about something everysingleday for two years. A zucchini flower. A credit card. Any snide remark. Any crooked look. The childrens’ bedtime. What to have for dinner. Who will cook dinner. Who appreciates who less. That thing I did two years ago. Which therapist we should hire.

 

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January 1, 2015: She says get your shit and get the fuck out by 8pm or I will call the police. My blood turns to battery acid and my eye levees burst. I get out. Downtown, center of the city, my friend Chad helps me across his street, up the stairs, into and out from the elevator, down the hall, into his open-air spare bedroom, and back again about fifteen times. I am moving out, maybe moving on, but my identity is still T and the kids. They’re everything. People often ask why a battered wife won’t leave her abuser. I understand now. It becomes the only thing of everything you know. Probably of everything you’ve known since you were a child. Familiar may not be healthy but it’s expected. Ani Difranco sings privilege is a headache that you don’t know you don’t have. Read that again. Let it sink in. I guess in my case it’s: abuse is a headache you have always had and so you didn’t know you could exist without it. And I won’t know for another two years.

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Dear T,

Fuck you for begging me back nearly six months later. And what of the in-between? The only true thing you ever said of me: you didn’t want a lover, you wanted a mother. I think you knew my weakness. Maybe you didn’t want to disassemble another household. I almost said family, you didn’t want to disassemble another family, but you’d put me on a par with your children and when one sibling moves away, the family itself doesn’t dissolve. But the household changes. Your household changed, drastically, the third time in five years. I demanded couples therapy if I were to set foot back in your house. You told me you’d do anything to make this work. Why then, in our therapist’s office, did his nearly-gaping mouth betray his neutrality? I sat tight  against the armrest, swollen eyes staring off at some object in the room. He coached you through what it would sound like to validate another human’s feelings. You kept up the questions about whether or not my particular feeling really had validity. That’s not the point. It’s not about right or wrong, feelings aren’t right or wrong. All feelings are valid because they are just that: feelings.’


val·i·date /ˈvaləˌdāt/ (verb):

  1. check or prove the validity or accuracy of (something).
  2. demonstrate or support the truth or value of.
    • synonyms: prove, give proof of, show to be true, give substance to; uphold, support, back up, bear out, justify, vindicate, substantiate, corroborate, verify, demonstrate, authenticate, confirm, endorse, give credence to, lend weight to; vouch for, attest to, testify to, stand by, bear witness to

 

It’s as though you thought that to say I hear you, meant you’d convict yourself. Of what, though? It’s the only time I ever walked out of a therapy session in my life.

hourglass

My anger is so thick I can’t cry. I go through the house reclaiming all of my belongings, again – if it fits in my car, it’s going with me. I slam the hatchback so hard on this part of my life that it echoes through the cul-de-sacs. I slam my car door just as hard. The dead bird in the bush comes back to life, my hampered voice fills my mouth again, the first time since thirteen. This is it: the moment where I take up all of my pain and resentment. Like so many knick-knacks from my past, I hurl the abandonment and invisibility into my literal and metaphorical car and get the fuck out because dammit I deserve better.

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Chris Moore is an elementary school teacher and poet-turned-essayist, residing in the Denver Metro area. She is currently completing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction in the Mile High MFA Program at Regis University. Her work has been featured in the 2018 Punch Drunk Press Anthology, Naropa’s 2019 Vagina Monologues Zine, and Allegory Ridge Magazine.

the monk’s succulents – j. miller

monkulents

What kills you doesn’t make you stronger, as if every reason happens for a thing. I spent weeks trying to figure out how to keep the succulents alive. Patiently listening to classical music, and sufferingly waiting to hear back from my botanist-friend. Gregor Mendel waits as the plumule and cotyledons spread to the sunshine, to live without shame and to massage the ground as a 马杀鸡, accept the shame and stains of the ascetic life. A horticulturist who loves their houseplants will lose them; A horticulturist who hates their houseplants will need to water them even after death.

The matter of the fact is death creeps towards the houseplants. Now I remember if time passes by me, the magnolias will outlive me. Now I remember these sheets of time. Each layer found in a newspaper or magazine. The monk as a botanist advises that sunlight accelerates growth.

Growth. A bush beats around the dead houseplants. 上a Chinese word for up, pronounced shàng shàng shàng shàng shàng shàngshàngshàngshàng shàng shàng shàng shàng shàng shàng shàngshàngshàng. Can the shrub withdrawal into the moonlight, and still watch the birds fly from their holes in the sky? Those aren’t birds.

You were a bird in a previous life, said my monk-friend, as we walked towards the delicatessen on 84th. A previous life, a forgotten sheet, sediment un-dredged, left to fall through the hole in the sky and rain that creates holes in the smoke, and holes in the sea, and sea in the holes. I am a houseguest here. Resultant from the monk’s prediction, all the houseplants died on 84th street. Or it could have resulted from an ancient Chinese proverb.

All gardens know better than their gardeners. My houseplant smirks at me. The houseplants know that I am its houseguest. Bonsai sprouts legs and waters me in my sleep, my pillow stained with sweat. All sheets uncanny, my potted plant and I use the same bathroom.

cropped-dead-bird-clip-art.jpg

J. Miller is a writer currently living in Central China. He teaches literature to a city that is often referred to as a furnace, and in winter he lives shrouded in a white curtain. Instagram @yawn_sea

Photo: Viktor Talashuk