I could smell the wood of the small door as we stood in front of it. A woman in a blood red dress answered with a familiar smile. Her face was lightly tanned in a way that suggested she experienced life’s difficulties gracefully. She embraced her son in a tight whisper along with her arms, then pulled back to grasp my hand.
“Darling,” she intoned, welcoming. “So happy to see you.” She pulled me inside, and I could only wonder at her disarming warmth. “What a treat it is to see my only child, and looking so content.” She winked at me as I followed my partner in my new life to a table in the small, bright, alcove by the window. I could not call him my husband, as I wished. We met on the rock while most were still grieving their loved ones, and we only leaned to hear murmurings of what the future would hold. We didn’t dare suggest the kind of permanence we craved. Afraid of losing our modest, safe new space, we hesitated to visit his remaining relative until now. Few inhabited the island she lived on; it had not been surveyed for visible and invisible dangers.
“Now eat, darlings,” his mother implored, pouring a meaty stew into the earthy bowls in front of us. I looked at him in shock as he began to devour it eagerly. He hadn’t eaten anything resembling meat as long as I’d known him, citing the appearance of a rabbit skewered into pieces after one of the blasts.
“Go on, dear,” she encouraged me. “We can talk later, after you get some rest. That journey is exhausting.”
I heard a groan beside me, the first noise he’d made since we arrived.
“I’ve gotta lie down,” he mumbled, without looking at me, and disappeared into a corner of the room.
She smiled at me. “What about you, dear? Are you tired?”
I shook my head, wondering at its sudden weight as I pushed my bowl out of the way and let it sink down to my arms. I lifted it after a moment, and found myself swimming, struggling to breathe and move in the changed air. I gave up and hid, my head back on the table. I felt a soft movement against my scalp and through the sliver of space between my arms I saw a silvery, wavy strand fall between my lengths.
“Stay, darling.” Her whisper was a threat, and though my heartbeat quickened and I struggled inside my body, I fell into black.
When I woke in the dim beginnings of nightfall, I first thought of my companion, and now, my fellow captive. I struggled to rise from my chair, my legs feeling like they hadn’t been used in days, my heart still beating wildly, as if a newer, more potent adrenaline had been injected in my veins. Even in the early days of fleeing the disaster, I had never felt such a keen panic. I found him lying on the floor in a corner of the room. How could I have missed the inevitable sound of his body falling? I gasped at the dark line of blood running from the corner of his lip to his jaw. I told myself it was just a cut, and gathered all my strength to coax him into enough consciousness to walk with me supporting him. Miraculously, I managed to unlatch and open the door. I was sure she had locked us inside. My abated heartbeat spiked as I turned to see her standing a short distance away, her long hair impossibly still in the dusty wind.
“You had better run, darlings,” she called, her voice light and melodic, as if she was summoning schoolchildren. “The ferry leaves before sundown.”
We’ll swim if we have to, I thought, as I turned and hobbled away as fast as I could.
Yesterday snow blossomed into the open door of my hurt hand. A little spring here, it would kill all of the animals. I think I can smell what a thousand crocuses would look like. At first, you do all the right things, then everything is poisonous.
That broad glowing sky shook
and I couldn’t resist
today’s medical term:
a kind of quivering
I tried to connect
to you when we were
What is it called when
you have no hooks
to grapple with?
Another someone would
go out in that same night
and this is why I
You and I are not
the waiting kind.
This much I
allow myself to label.
“The way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
I ask you not to read this until at least
your eyes have read pain,
which you think you will recognize but
can’t know until, alone without
the shattering reflection of it,
you can still feel it in the room.
I ask you not to gently pat your desires
down when they are half-grown seedlings
sprouting from your old blood, but to lace
a fence around their delicate progress. When
you cage a thing to remember it later,
it is never the same. The key is
remembering that they are perennial.
And now, for all the talk about
blood: it runs on streets, it boils and it
freezes. Why is it important
to keep a hard, new chip of this
in a brain? I don’t tell you so that
so you can know your job
will be different.
Because the job will always
be harder, whether snow
needs to be shoveled to make room
for new life or death, whether
you speak to the ones that inspect
your native face, or a ghost,
whether you are leaving a dirt
plain or a thick forest.
I can only hold the mirror to
show you parts of those
the ones you left behind. They are
packed into the portable vessels
of you, they will spill and run free
this is certain.
I just can’t tell you
if you’ll notice-important
to stitch up your own wounds,
before cleaning up someone else’s
“If I waited til I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.”