SLOW RED NAIL POLISH IS A KIND OF HOPE
ON A FICTIONAL DIASPORA BETWEEN HEMISPHERES
HER DAUGHTER'S HAIR
jackie davis martin
THINGS THEY DONT TALK ABOUT IN PARENTING CLASS
THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN AMERICA
You smear a thick sinful red on your nails without knowing what it’ll bring. You’re pretty sure you’ll lift a cigarette to your lips, also smeared red, and exhale a thin trail of smoke in a long spiritual line like a soul leaving a body.
And maybe your fingers’ll slip in between other fingers, reach out and grab the nape of a sun burnt neck, pull him in close. Lips on lips. Your smeared red against his dry cracked man lips, making your own mouth taste staler, smokier and his mouth taste like old postage stamps.
But you’re not sure.
The red drying slowly at the end of your fingers doesn't guarantee it. Or anything.
But it helps.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
That I was always turned away, situated in the hazy phase between dream and drone.
I am the electricity radiating from my skin. I am slowly killing you.
She craves security the way she craves a cigarette. It’s nothing to her but a home to live in for three minutes.
And you could expect to see her there, all those years ago, slouching behind the 7/11 before dark, silhouetted against neon signs with smoke plumes rising up over the dumpster.
A long time ago, a man damaged the part of his brain responsible for sensing where his body ended and where the world began. The only way he could describe it was that his body "bled into everything." That’s all I’ve wanted this whole time.
The Virgin Suicides
Her hair, its thickness, the way it tumbled in curls, is an absence so great I catch my breath weary of hearing about the many ways of grief when what is impossible is seeing the hair golden brown, often swept high, often pulled in strands from her face with a high barrette, the curls at the ends falling to her shoulders or slightly below her neck, but always the bangs, and her so fussy with them she’d make an appointment just to have them trimmed, and now I look only at my hair, the graying, the dye not right, drying out, nothing like hers. One time at the grief group her hair seemed to swirl in my head, filling my head crazily like stuff we used to call angel hair on Christmas trees or filigree of brown and gold, filling my head and then disappearing and all I had was the memory, or illusion of memory, when that’s all I have here, here, staring at her pictures, of her with her hair, with the curls falling, pulled back, and I don’t know how to go on but I keep going on without her hair without her.
Jackie Davis Martin
The Progress of Love
You prepare your son’s breast milk by heating it gently in the pan of boiling water. The tiny bottle bobs and lulls like a lost Bouie, the fawn-colored liquid inside bubbling slow and steady, like the waves before they rogue.
You take the bottle out, press the fake nipple against your wrist like you have watched your wife do every day, and test the tepid temperature. You screw the lid off the bottle, hover it over your cup of black coffee, and pour it in. You take a loud sip, relishing the sweet taste of your wife’s milk.
She has been ignoring you, your wife. Not on purpose, of course. Lately all of her attention has been directed towards your new son. You understood this was going to happen. The new parenting classes you had to take at the hospital advised you of this. A new baby means things change. Still, you missed where your lips once touched the sweet petals of your wife’s areolas. How she would tremble like a shy earthquake about to erupt. The power of your touch always was a wonder for you. Now: Vaseline clung to dry, cracked nipples where your mouth once sucked. Her breasts were huge buffalo bladders, swollen with lightning struck scars on stretched skin.
You hand the bottle with the remaining liquid to your wife. She looks up at you, storm clouds under her eyes, and pushes her lips into a smile. Daddy’s little boy, she says.
Judith Byron Schachner
I’ve been thinking a lot about dying lately, because why wouldn’t I? The human curse, I guess.
So, on the table for my nose surgery, deviated septum, I told myself that when they put the mask, I would try to stay awake for as long as I could, fight it, try to savor the life around me. I wanted letting go to be my decision, not theirs. I wanted to be aware that I was slipping away, like it was practice for dying.
Waking up later, my mom was next to me. How are you feeling, sweetheart? I couldn’t find a way to explain to her how disappointed I was that I hadn’t registered the time passing, that I had wasted a precious opportunity.
I’m fine, mom.
And I was, I think, because I knew I would have another chance to know what dying was like. Or, at least one more chance.
This is Not Your City
I suppose I was always at a loss as to what I could say or do about it. My own best gestures never felt real to her and aside from that I could never seem to find the words. That’s it? She’d say, and maybe she was right . . . But yeah, the whole thing was like an underwater struggle. I say that now, having had years to think about it. Every day, it was a wrestling match against an unimaginable leviathan, with both of us, me and her, on either side, pulling and huffing. Sometimes we were pulling apart, but sometimes I’d swear that we really wanted to be together, though either way it came out predictably the same. The same whipping, lashing momentum, punctuated by vicious strikes. Same cold vacuum, those silences, same undertow, in which both of us, most of the time, found it impossible to breathe . . .
The University realizes it doesn’t really cover the universe, so it changes its name to the Worldity, but the Worldity realizes it isn’t really all that global, that it’s entire perspective is very much promotional to its own country’s perspectives, so it changes its name to the Countryity, but the Countryity could care less about the states other than the one where it resides, so the Countryity changes its name to Statity, but the Statity realizes it’s not so much concerned about the state as a whole, in fact, several of its greatest rivals are within the state, so it changes its name to the Cityity, but the Cityity could care less about the economic problems of the city where its dorms and buildings are located, its only real concern is the university itself so it wisely changes its name to the Universityity and only invites alumni to attend alumni events that exclude the general public who can’t even park anywhere on campus without being ticketed and the general public don’t know about the on-campus events anyway or can’t afford them so it becomes a wonderful Incestity with the widespread acceptance of nepotism and an ensuring that anyone who is actually from the city of the Universityity/Incestity will be poverty-wage adjunct faculty and the highest paid faculty will be people from New York.