MAY 31

The night the river breached at the old house
I dreamt that I saved
Me, seventeen-years-old,
pink-sock-footed
from the railing of a too-tall building.

we went inside and
waited.

the river water came up to
our ankles,
calves,
knees.
I took off my shoes &
rolled up my jeans.
The other Me never spoke.

My mother and two sisters and
handful of brothers had to leave the house for the flood.
I went the next night to see the river,
washed forward,      reaching,
pulsing for escape.
I imagined seeing things I had lost
in the quiet wakes of
the water snakes.
I lived on the second floor,
but still the mud had reached me,
stained socks,
voiceless.

It was eleven when we got three miles away.
Flashing blue and yellow of emergency lights saying
No.
This is not for you.
We pulled down another road,
farther from the river than my old house slept,
and filled a jar from the overflowing ditch.
Another hour to get back home;
the rain seemed to slick over
our words, and the lines           on the road.
Most of the trip was silence.

In the dream, we soggy-waited
in ignorance & blind faith,
thirst quenched by vodka in a Dasani costume.
I don’t know if I shared.

We waited, and didn’t get what
I came for.
Nothing happened.
We received no closure.
The explanation had been an
idle trick
warned by
a faceless terror in the murky dark.

Walking down the same stairs I saved me from,
I had only dirty river water
clinging to our skin and
a question on my lips:
Who scared me       more than drowning?

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once, I knew the words to say.
now the Worlds take me anyway

to gods below

You came to me like pearls before swine
and I thought – if it’s promises this time
I won’t keep them. I won’t keep you
waiting at the corner of the bed, through
scapegoats and mythos and ghosts of my past
(if you considered this silence, it might be the last

of them holding to brickdust and
grabbing at mortars; reach into neverland
for I’m the one with borders).

Honey-thick wine for a bribe, then.
Next time I’ll know you’re a liar when
your breath arcs to wings and the thief
comes alive in you (wake little sleeping gold-leafed
darling, I see your eyes in the rain drops
lilting off his grave). You can’t stop

your nature more than I can stop the sun.
You can’t stop your nature more than I can stop the sun.
You can’t stop your nature more than I can stop the sun.

(When I’m free, Oh lover mine, the bribery is done.)

the altar is ours

Three words. Nine words. Eighteen words.

If you pack them all up carefully along with the ceramic, remember not to leave any dust behind.

I had been sitting around an almost-circular table, drinks sweating into the wood, smoke piling up at the mouth before drifting off into the rest of the room. We hadn’t seen each other in weeks, although it felt like longer – months? Nearly a year, possibly? The laughter grew raucous; people took turns going up to the roughly-built stage to tell their jokes and their stories.

Did you hear the one about the serial killer who stabbed his victims to death? He told the judge he just wanted to make new friends. Testimonies said he would approach random people on the street with the murder weapon. “So KNIFE to meet you!”

It was funny. Or maybe it only was in the haze of liquid courage and the physicality of people I thought I had lost. Where had I been for so long? They were jabbing my ribs with their elbows; someone handed me another drink. It was my turn to go up to the darkly lit stage. Tinkling music played quietly in the background, turned down by the barkeeper who wanted to watch us have our fun. Other people lingered at the edges of the room, but this was our time, our reunion, our excitement.

I took my glass to the small stage, touched the microphone. Hello? Is anyone out there? I asked. Laughter for a response. With the light on my face, individual people turned to shapes in the dark. Movements in the periphery. I took a drink, and another. Set the glass on the smooth floor. Stood up and faced the light.

When the rush comes, you know where it’s pulling you.

Shadows glimmered just out of focus range; my mouth felt dry despite the drinks. My heels clicked as I shuffled nervously.

Once there was a girl, I started. Images of a woman, standing across a street I once knew. A bus rushing past, cutting off my view of her. She had this sweater, right? I continued. In my mind’s eye, I followed the woman across the street, towards a familiar building. No, that’s not how it goes. So she gets a sweater for her birthday, okay. I shift backwards, and my feet slide smoothly against the ground. The light is blinding now, everything else a distant echo, but I can still see her walk up the black onyx steps, carefully weave through the grooves in the ground, and stand. We face each other, now, and her ground is my ground. I blink against the glare of the city street light above me and gain focus of my surroundings. Shadows beyond her – buildings and cars and walking commuters. But it’s just she and I. We make eye contact, and the ground melts under me.

the reasons we run

The warning had come the day before.

If they reach the city, now… well. I fear they’ll target you. 

I knew it a week earlier. I had known it since the night with the lines crossing our boundaries and his hands reaching for threads wrapped around my wrists. It was no new prophecy.

There were helices in the sky, little clouds twisting downwards towards the filthy earth beneath. I should have taken notice. I would not have guessed that it would come so soon. A man approached my car on my way home that night. I assumed he was asking for money, and I shook my head a negative, but he walked to my window anyway. Touched the glass of the window. Looked up at the darkening sky. I followed his gaze and saw nothing I had not already seen. When I returned my gaze downward, he was gone. The light turned green. I drove on.

These are the stories of a girl lost, a girl who moves and travels and fights. When the dirt flies, it is her car that kicks rocks into the space above it. We are not caught in stasis any longer; the blood of the ancients fuel our passage on.

Do I tell you of nighttime often? Do I tell you of when the air grows still and the dark grows thick like chalk dust coating your tongue, your throat, your lungs?

There was nothing on the road, though my brain bid me to look. I looked.
There was nothing on the road, though the hair on my neck and arms stood on end and a surge of cold adrenaline hit my heart.
There was nothing on the road until its form showed in the headlights, horse-like and large and muscular.

What do warnings mean to girls who flee?

when the storm comes

It’s one of those howling, expectant afternoons, when the earth and the sky and the air all collectively hold their breath and wait for the night to fall. We can’t show you the lightshow without a backdrop of darkness. A gust of wind rustles the papers on the table next to the chimney; a few dozen raindrops hit the side of the house and splatter the window. The spit of the gods, catching what sunlight that can peer through the clouds. We close our eyes against the glare.

Back in June, I stood in a field of yellow. Little wisps of white floated above me while I studied the flora at my feet. I found prickly pears, too green to worth risking a needle in my fingertips. A little band of honeybees with their fuzzy hearts set on kissing each and every flower in that wide expanse. Carpenter ants marching solemnly along the top rail of the ranch gate on some noble mission for their queen. The world in that moment was a hum, a whisper, a prayer. A shadow passed over the sun and I turned to see a storm rolling down the mountains at me. The earthy song was replaced by a sharp crack from the distance, and the moment was gone.

Another spray of wind and rain droplets hits the side of the house and rattles the windows. The storm came late this year. Truly, it wasn’t meant to come at all. As the clouds pile up above the city, forcing cold into the streets and assaulting the alleys with breaths of frost, we wait. When they come, they will come; when they fall, we will be waiting under cover of winter’s night to help them find their heaven. I will darn your wounds with dark thread, my darling, and pray for you as you cross.

we had a night

At night, there are these visceral moments that come in between 9pm and midnight. I use them as markers, little pin points on the map in my brain to keep me focused on where I am headed. It doesn’t always work. Feelings have led me down the wrong path many times before. Dates matter, though: last year, on this day, at this time, I was sitting on her lap and I was drunk and we were laughing and the growling across the fence didn’t matter to us. We were invincible. When I broke my hand it healed. When she broke my heart it healed. When the bladed gaze of the man dressed in Hell hit my soul, it healed.

Today there was no cold, no fire, no breaking.

There’s a pulling from the stones, if you get close enough. You can feel them, each color speaking different words. A bowlful can tell a story, if you let it. They say, “stay, stay,” or “go, go,” depending on which way you hold the bowl. Sometimes I don’t hold the bowl at all, and then they only whisper.

Across the street there were two culverts, before they were torn down and replaced by a school of arts. The murals on the concrete were ripped down with the stone and grass and crumpled up beer cans, and now no one will ever again know that Katelyn loved Luke, or what that symbol etched in chalk brought into the shadows.

there was a morning once

There was a fuzzy feeling in my throat when I woke up this morning. Very odd. After I put on my eyeliner (one-one-two strokes, to make it even on top and a whip upwards at the edge) I drank half a bottle of water. The fuzzy feeling remained, but I put on my sweater and got in my car anyway.

Halfway to my destination, the feeling stopped. Sometimes I don’t remember what it’s like to really breathe until I’m allowed to do it. I ran a yellow-now-red light, because there were no cops around.

At 10:17am, three minutes after I had stepped away from my computer, I remembered the dream I had last night, and I got the fuzzy feeling again. It lingered like a blanket you stuff in your mouth to keep from crying too loudly. It moved on my tongue like a Halls that’s supposed to numb the pain but only distracts from it.

There are days when the doors don’t open for me, even if it’s not very often, and I move about pretending to fit in with the other millions. If they all have cotton in their throats, then maybe we can collectively pretend it’s insulation for our vocal chords and not worry about the ticking that follows closely behind.