Volume 40 ~ 2017
Answer Me This
Answer me this.
Why are plane crashes a national tragedy
but car crashes a side effect of progress?
When is progress over and perfection reached?
Why do we reach for the stars
if all we do is burn when we touch them?
Heartburn. Why is irritation
of your esophagus referencing your heart?
Did the discoverer fail anatomy?
What is the anatomy of love?
Love. Why does a simple word hold so much power?
Why do we give it that power?
Love does not conquer all. People conquer all
and accredit it to love. What is love?
An abstract noun? A sensation? An emotion?
Maybe it's the collective human goal
to strive to be better. What is better?
Greater than now? Simpler than now?
What is now? A moment? A memory?
Maybe a collective promise to exist
or else we all cease to exist? Do we exist?
Do I exist or am I a puppet of some heavenly figure?
What is heavenly? A place in the sky or a really good
piece of pie? Or maybe a thought to help us sleep at night.
Thoughts, do I think? Or am I some tool of some metaphysical
maniac? Am I a maniac? Does anyone else
spend hours heart racing, head pounding,
questioning the interwoven fabric of reality?
Why is reality made of fabric? What kind is it?
Satin, chiffon, corduroy, or maybe
one with silk slashes of airplanes painted on.
12 hours after
Scattered driftwood bobs around as though the ocean was shaking itself of my presence. My fingers prune like raisins and my feet kick like a broken propeller, effort without any progress. Red-tinted water drips from a gash above my eyebrow, blinding my squinted eyes. I scan the horizon with each sway of the ocean, looking for any sign of salvation. No wonder misery is blue; its endless expanse is enough to make anyone despair. The sun beats the life out of me and leaves its cruel blistered marks. I perch on a splintered chunk of the mess hall table and settle into waiting.
24 hours after
Night came and went with an indifference that made me feel so insignificant and understand my tiny place in this world. I no longer kick for islands that do not exist. My tongue sits swollen in my throat until breathing feels like suffocating and suffocating feels like freedom. I am starting to think that God is toying with me. The water grows larger as I sit in his lukewarm bath and he won’t pull the drain. I can’t find the rubber ducks. I’m all alone. Why won’t God save me? Why won’t the rubber ducks save me?
48 hours after
Fish swim underneath and mock me with their eyes. I am free one says. I can drink says the second. I am not hungry says the third as he opens wide and captures a minnow. The fish chant this in my ears, daring me to act as they do and to embrace the open sea. Covering my ears, I yell back louder. The fish are more persistent. My own body betrays me as I cup my hands, dip them into the sea, and drink from the bathwater.
72 hours after
Three nights have passed. No one searches after three nights. My eyes swell until I could only see pink irritation and aqua hopelessness in all directions. I see aqua hopelessness, aqua hopelessness, and more aqua hopelessness. My stomach chews through my knotted innards until only salt and bitter acid sit on my tongue. Then I see mother. She rises out of the sea with seaweed plaited hair and an emerald gown. Fear not dear child, the sea is your friend she gurgles as her figure shimmers in the sun. She coaxes me to sink. Mother asks me to become one with the sea. Whispering sweet nothings in my ear and stroking the air above my matted hair, mother kept promising me safety and urging me to end my pain.
My grip to the table loosens and I slide into the water, embracing the sea’s warm arms and those of my mother. I push myself deeper, swallowing salty sips faster than my crying eyes can replace them. Darkness encompasses my tired body. Bubbles escape my limp lips, and the light seems to flee into slanted beams until it all goes dark. Once it went dark, the world seems to glow from deep inside, and the fish become luminescent skeletons with paper lantern skin.
I settle into a role of fish food and endless sinking, when someone else took control of my body and started flailing my burning limbs. My body feels like a furnace as my oozing blistered skin mingles with salty seas, and my oxygen deprived limbs struggle to maintain my ability to move. Struggling against this urge, I force myself to continue my bottomless journey but am unsuccessful. My body moves through jelly, swinging my arms with all momentum possible. Still not sure exactly what direction was up or why I was moving.
I explode through the water like a rubber duck being held down too long, and now the seagulls above me laugh at my weakness. Silly girl can’t even drown right. The world is still dark, I can only feel water swirl around my numb legs and splash into my nose. I float until my sight comes back, and I see my only life preserver far off into the horizon. My burning limbs scream in protest as I chase what is now my only home. The moment my fingers grasp the splintered surface, I give into the structure. I lay my throbbing head down, and let my legs dangle, scaring the minnows with my wiggling toes, letting them scatter in explosions, and scaring the food away from the nasty fish.
96 hours after
I barely move. Mother keeps luring splashes of water into my lungs. My skin is as vibrant as my chipped nail polish. I resemble a plague victim with my open sores. I drift farther from myself and farther from my families’ watery graves. Eyelids become too much effort to control. Mother starts to fade. She no longer keeps me company. Even the fish see me as a waste of time. The seagulls remain, but they circle high overhead and place bets on me.
120 hours after
The ocean is empty except for me. Not even the fish remain. God drained the bath of life to punish me. Aqua hopelessness, aqua hopelessness. Aqua. That is all that is left: aqua and I. The sea is my mother now. She rocks me to sleep. On the brink of sleep I see a boat off into the distance. It glows with eerie light, and a figure waves from the deck. It is mother. She returned for me.
Meira peeks out the curtain
stapled over the attic window,
her first view of Poland in months.
The world is overcast
with wisps of warfare.
It’s wrapped around everything,
occupying their minds like children
tugging at mother’s skirt. There isn’t another
color more etched into the sky
than ash folded into the storm’s stagnant green.
A cloud in the sky darkens
each time the oven closed;
now the heavens resemble the inside
of a dropped teapot. Broken glass
makes the ground sparkle with a fool’s
gold gleam. Sometimes the power flickers off,
the camp burns bright and the ground goes still
as Earth shudders. Spirits flee
to heavenly arms. Meira pulls her head
from the strip of light, not knowing
the rain which falls as she dreams
now runs gray with ash and
shreds of death mixed in.
In The Garage
My two cats, Mabel and Dipper, live in the garage and don’t understand why they no longer have air conditioning and television. If the cats are found inside, we get evicted, so they live their lives sleeping in shadowy corners and perching on spider web apartment complexes. Dipper is a slice of sunshine, a burnt yellow-orange cat with a white underside. He is a headstrong beast that doesn’t share his food. When he was a kitten he was attacked and now his front left leg is permanently stuck like the spout on The Little Teapot song. Mabel is a tri-colored patchwork of orange and black on a snow white stomach and four white socks. She is a stuck up character who understands her name but chooses not to listen. She enjoys open windows but hates the outdoors.
Last week, I was sitting in my room wishing I had a mass of fluffy cat to watch Netflix with me. I considered smuggling the cats into my room, but didn’t want to put shoes on to walk outside. Instead, I found a snack and set my alarm early so the garage isn’t a sauna when I visit them in the morning. I turn my lights off and go to bed dreaming about a purring pile of cat.
The next morning I wake up to my wish. My eyes are still closed and I drift between states of consciousness when I hear the familiar purr of a content kitten. I turn over and go to embrace the cat when I realize she isn’t soft, but smooth and cold like porcelain. I open my eyes and laying before me is a pastel colored, paisley printed, kitten hard as a statue but alive. She is the size of a dinner plate and has a bubblegum colored bow wrapped around her neck. Shocked, I realize this cat is identical to the one I bought at a Phoenix flea market earlier this year. I turn to the spot on the bookshelf where she sat and it was empty with an undisturbed circle of dust left behind.
I decide to name the cat Paisley, after her pattern. She curls herself up in my empty lap and doesn’t move no matter how much I shift. Soon, hours blend together until the sky becomes dark again and I neglect to visit the garage cats or even leave my room. Paisley always knows what I want. When I grow bored of television, she gets up and does tricks for me. She knows backflips and how to shake hands and when my phone charger drops behind my bed, she retrieves it.
The following morning I go outside to visit my garage cats. In my garage, the world stands still and I can listen to the rustling of life echo off the bare studs of my unfinished building. There is no electricity, but the western facing garage door casts a yellow tint over the entire space. It is a technological graveyard. Grease stained stoves line the back wall and a workbench sits full of broken toys, half burnt candles, and crushed soda cans.
Paisley is perched on my shoulder when I enter. The cats go to rub against my shins, but they stop. Their hair stands on end and they hiss and retreat to the corner. I pull the cats by their tails from the corner and set them side by side next to Paisley. Dipper marches up to her and smacks her with his club arm. Mabel simply sits perfectly tall with her nose in the air and pretends that she could care less. I spend the day with all of my cats though Mabel and Dipper keep more distance than usual and don’t purr when I pet them.
The week marches on and the cats behavior never changes except towards Paisley. Whenever she walks by a shelf, Mabel is above and waiting to pounce. Dipper growls each time Paisley walks by the food dish despite the fact that she doesn’t eat. All the petty revenge continues until one day, when Paisley is sleeping on top of a wardrobe being stored in the garage. Mabel creeps up behind her and before I realize it, she shoves Paisley off the edge. Her porcelain paws had no friction on the surface and she slid with no resistance. I watched Paisley circle in the air as she struggled to turn upright. She barely manages to point her feet down when she smacks the ground and shatters.
A large chunk of her face skids towards my feet and I hesitantly pick it up and see Paisley’s single eye wide with anguish. She gradually closes it, lets out a distorted weak meow and reverts to ceramic. Mabel marched proudly over to me with her head held high but I push her away and scoop up pieces of pastel and storm out of the garage with the cats at my feet looking for affection. I slam the door on Mabel’s and her wide eyes look just as pained as Paisley’s did.