Pull the Trigger. Multiply.

 

No one bothered to ask. I expressed regret over breakfast—

between bites of overcooked ham and eggs, petting Missy’s ashen forehead with one hand—

that she wouldn’t live to see my book on the shelves. It was meant as a joke, like

the way people put puppies in strollers and push them around at the park.

I should’ve known better

than to be candid with family.

          First comes grief,

          then comes money.

The eggs should’ve been a red flag, I suppose. Lou says

it’s all about the eggs-as-shells, small

genetic suitcases, hollowed out, hereditary

trojan horses, anonymous vessels from donor

hounds whose toothsounds are lost

somewhere in that backwoods lab.

The second one doesn’t like me. She refuses Missy’s bed

in favor of the floor, relishing

in her outsider status. I wonder

if she holds a place in the collective canine shadow, if her subconscious flickers

with memories of fire and flesh.

Maybe she just sees bubbles in formaldehyde

when she closes her eyes.

She never knew Missy.

She does not know me.

Her eggmother is a cur on the streets of Seoul, the only

kiss she knows is inoculation, her puppy pictures

are backlit with inlay and fluorescence.

 

          I put the Milkbones back in the cabinet when she snubs them

          It took this long to figure out that it was never about me.

Author’s note: In 1998, the "Missplicity" project was founded in an attempt to clone the first dog, a mutt named Missy who was owned by Joan Hawthorne Sperling. Joan's son launched the project, which eventually produced a number of successful Missy clones. One clone, Missytoo, was given to Joan. She complained that the dog did not have her beloved pet’s personality, and did not care for it.

 

Eternal Return

 

Look at these—

 

my paintings a crime

scene of colors—layers above and below one

another like paint peeled away

by some petulant child.          No wonder

I haven’t sold any.

Do you          pity me, Nicolai? Is that why

you look at me with the light of that

god-forsaken harp—

oscillations in the orchestra pits of your eyes? If you were so compelled,

you’d compose me a symphony, balancing

dustbitten furniture on

a pin head, calling me

dancer, seraph, angelic.

Whatever my mother saw in you, I think that now

I see it too, that need

to fuck with far away, beyond things.

You’d be happy

if we all fell to our knees. I’m sure

you’d bend those strings

of light to Order’s will if only you

could lift the earth with your song for

one

          second,transient,

                                evanescent—

you want to hold

the multiverse, like snowflakes on eyelashes—

benevolent. A playful god. But

our art is on borrowed time; entropy

is a fickle friend and

claiming to collar it is arrogance that separates

                                          and takes and takes—

 

I cannot idle while your

devil’s hands play, while you ignore

our children like they are

the two truths of a coin flip. I used to see

possibilities                    simultaneously—

now I can                        only toy

with quarters                  until

my odds                         meet together,

                       fifty-fifty.

Amygdelirium

 

I curl

          curdled around your cerebellum

and you call back the rules one by one

before we desecrate them—a switch

behind a panel

in the dusty end

hallway of your mind—something flipped.

          And as the gate closes behind your fist slips

              into his visage, the face that so many nights held your simpering

                  in clay hands, softness desiccated

                      in a baptism of red.

 

—afterwards

 

you tell me it’s upsetting how rapidly I metamorphize obsession to loathing, seeping

into sulci and gyri like rose wine spilled on concrete runs through fractures

onto the synapse black tar of the street that is/was your need for me.

I’m surprised I still hear your voice struggling through static on my Panasonic, given our

history.

          Remember?

We used to hold hands heavy on the playground to keep each other steady and

it wasn’t a two-way street, and

people like you need things like me. You can

renounce your devotion, banish derelict emotion, but I’ll still bleed

into whichever asshole stumbles into my pitfalls first

without even having to leave.

          It’s easy—

I’m metaphysical, all-pervading, spirituality—

the crown child of a race who creates their own divinities.

You’re just a solitary nucleus in a sea of cells,

the apoptosis already building in the scaffolds of your roots.

You are

     rotting overindulgence,

              cavities of past camaraderie,

                                  becoming more void

                                                                           than girl.                That is how you want to die.

                                                                                                                   And you will.

                                                                                                                      This will destroy you.

                                                                                                                                                I should know.

 

Sun Shower

 

i am small and white

so they call me yako. their foxfire

rollicking like lantern light

between pursed eyelids. they say

that i shouldn’t try my luck. that someday

a man will see me

and be fearful for his wife

and he will shoot me

and that will be the end of that.

my mother thinks

i am the color of cinders

extinguished

and suspended, before they

hit the ground, before they

turn blight and silent

and forgotten.

when the snow comes,

i nestle into the deep

and the others do not see me,

       and here i can pretend that they never see me,

              and that i will not become embers when i die,

                      and that my spirit will not hang itself, evanescent

                             and that i will not seep through into the grey of soil

                                     i’d like to melt when i hit the ground instead,      

                                          i’d like to stay in my othershape,

                                               and sometimes i try to hold

                                                        form by balancing

                                                                 the light in my chest

                                                                        and sculpting it,

                                                                                          like held

                                                                                                   breath.

 

i can

ingrain and grow

and so they call me yako.

but my foxfire is not an ember waiting

to die between brain and bullet

could be divine so i

try my luck.

someday

someone will see me

and want me for a wife

and they will love me

and that will be the end of that.

 

The Heathen Woman with the Crucifix

I was baptized in a sea—

what could’ve been wine

or blood. I remember the wings

that came to take you, how they exposed the sky

like your end was daylight

and not a harbinger of a fresh death

that rippled across the world like an ache.

Wet pools in the runs of my face

and abdomen like fingers brushing

against cheeks

in the sign of the three before pointing

                           north

                           south,

                                 east,

                west

                        —a compass conceived in the palm of a hand.

 

That is what you left me.

My words stay sequestered in swollen throat.

What remains of your light

now throttles me, a choke chain pulled

taut—a reminder

that this world

is as lifeless as its God.

You live within this

twisted cross that stings stigmata and sweat

into the skin of my chest, even when I

make love to him you’re

there.

Father

is an absence to be filled—

that’s why I keep you.

One more ward

to pour myself into,

one more tally

mark around my neck.

Dear Sister

 

Ectopic child that you are, you fail to respect the sanctity

of life, springing

fury bared

from the garden of death.

Horns curl

above your head like mocking halos,

and you harp in a voice both biting and without weight,

cursing those who dared create you.

Mother

molded a body both formidable and jagged, capably gnawing

through womb and umbilical collar.

You feel this absence—

the space around your neck that aches

at feathertouch.

Even the bleak of the sun fails

to darken the skin.

Infinity is cauterizing—like a neutered dog,

you are driven forward

by vague purpose alone.

There is temperate humanity here, in clotted limbs

an augustine state of indifference.

Your ego is altered chemistry, the flux

of fluids and electricity behind eyes,

above throats—

                                  the softest spots

 

sink the most heat.

And the perfect state of mind is a fever dream.

Loose Change

 

in the style of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons

WORK

I have orders to strike a match. The match is reasonable. Kindling can catch on hatches complete candied

yarn.

The yarn is a flammable catch, too. Assuming a cat. Assuming that cats lack what they check. The yarn is

unguarded.

Watch untangled fire like a door latch. Switch them, switch them and fix it tight. The object in the fire

can’t help that loose screw that emphasizes this.

This is the sway it is.

The way it hits the box on its way to charge, strike once. Twice.

 

PLAY

Feather dust mends us. Tends to the rusted swings of the needlepoint. Feathers make late playmates.

Feathers wait for us.

Use the dust to coat a fruit. Conjure melon trust between skirt squares. Squares on the rubble black.

Black ribbon can’t play without us. Use the dust.

Use and be used and usher flooded juice. Sticky between ribbons flung out to make some sense of it. I’m

it first, then the feather.

Shush and mend against us both. Bent brackets can draw a butterfly. Kisses.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Stella Elam

Stella Elam is a Northern Arizona University alumn who graduated with degrees in English and Psychology. She currently resides in Phoenix and works as a first grade assistant teacher for special education students. When it comes to writing, her focuses are poetry and fiction, and she finds inspiration in music and art of all kinds. Her goal is to complete her graduate schooling and eventually teach creative writing.
 
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