I STILL CARRY THE GHOSTS OF WOLVES
Sara Michelle Williams
AT THE BURGER KING ACROSS FROM THE VEGETARIAN PLACE
UNLOADING THE TRUCK
I'D LIKE TO SEE YOU AGAIN
A MEMORY FROM CHILDHOOD
for Joe Wills
I am a frozen whip. I am a bowl of blue rings and swollen melon seeds that urge us home. Home is that dark gray place that sings its silence, that dark wet with too many ghosts. I wait for the whip to drop, for the warmth to come. I am the winter inside and there’s a life underneath I can’t hold.
I run away, run into the tailor of things. I finger the tailor’s scissors. They fall and split, turn to knives that raise me; I face the wolves that didn’t have it in them to raise anything but themselves. Their breath is frigid steam rising from their bellies out through their teeth. I brandish my knives and cut the cold right out. I reassemble the knives into scissors and reach for a new hallucination, a new goatskin. I am the tailor sewing myself a new mask, a new desire.
I still carry the ghosts of wolves. I am the wolf belly bride, swollen to the world, empty inside like a bell you ring for service. I swallow the long tight click of language that fails; I drop myself down and dream the dark alive.
Sara Michelle Williams
A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon
You and I were eating at the burger place across from the vegetarian place. I said: “Nothing beats a plate of fries and ketchup.”
You said: “Speaking of catching up, how are you doing?” and I knew how meant who and I knew doing meant screwing.
So I said: “Vanessa.”
That’s when you got quiet. But the silence was broken. The waitress bounced over, poured us water, and asked if we needed anything else, and I think for a sliver of time Vanessa slipped out of your mind, slinked out of your brain like a burglar out of a back door; or maybe her name dissolved into the murky broth of temporarily forgotten things, along with Pythagorean Theorem and your dog Scribble’s middle name.
Which was Lester, I remembered.
And I said that, too. Because I was proud.
“What about my dog?” you said, dunking your fries in ketchup.
My instinct was to wish I was dead, dead as Scribbles under a Toyota. But I loved you too much to be dead. I loved you so much, back then.
You asked again: “Jay. What about my dog?”
I bit my burger and it bled. “Never mind,” I said. “Nothing.”
I Go To Some Hollow
It only takes three hours and 1400 pieces of dollar store merchandise for Jason to complete his story of copulating with the cashier from California on the night shift who claimed to have once been a stewardess. I say copulating because I also pretend to have several academic degrees while unloading the truck with Jason slinging down wooden shelves and cases of cranberry juice screaming from the interior of the truck about her fat ass. We take a 15 minute break, hit the liquor store, and pound PBRs in his car in the parking lot before going back in to finish the shift. Three weeks later he thinks he got her pregnant. I am applying for college. The truck is smaller and smaller. It was good there for a while.
Alone and Not Alone
It’s like one moment you are sitting. And then next you are not. You’re standing but you feel like you’re whirling in the white sheets of a hospital bed. Just looking at the pretty picture outside waiting for death.
Counting how many men or women 500, 502 and there was . . . , 510. Like counting the days in February, there are skips.
And for a moment you feel afraid. Scared! Terrified! Horrified! Overwhelmed! Like you-got-to-seize-the-day!
First it’s very normal. You enter it all in google.
Then it becomes too much! And you question how did they get there? Who? Why?
That’s the first week: Monday to Sunday.
Then things pop up and annoy you. Pop Vagina! Pop Ass Cheeks! Pop Mouth! Pop Breast!
And you think and you think and then you google it again: how to live life with. . .
Google says. And you follow. And you follow on Facebook the Guru with the Good life. And you follow the Pretty Poser on twitter.
But they must have it too, right?
They must have it?
Because you can see it!
You can see it, their digital herpes clustering. Just count the numbers.
The God of Small Things
Neil asks where the photos are. I hand him a sheet of paper, his favorite green crayon. “What do you want to remember?”
“You know what to do.”
The crayon hits my collarbone. “I know you have to have at least one photo of her. Where is it?”
It’s better you forget. It’s better to learn to quit missing her. I get up, pat Neil’s head. “The last one I had was in my wallet and it was stolen. Remember?”
Neil nods, picks up the crayon. He draws a crooked head, spaghetti hair, eyelashes that could snatch you like a Venus flytrap, eyelids that could digest you slowly.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
At the words force of nature, her shoulders squared and settled.
Then came intelligent, and her skin went taut, snapped like a clean bedsheet over her bones. She tingled all over.
Fantastic lengthened her neck and waved her hair. She held her breath. The changes had spun her out. She’d grown dizzy and disoriented. Alarmed, in fact.
Intriguing, engaging then exquisite, and she nearly toppled off her chair onto the glazed tiles below. She flattened her palms against the table to stay upright. She worried she might drift, then lose consciousness. The half-drunk glass of white had become superfluous. Anything was possible.
A memory from my childhood: We’re at the beach. A bunch of older, cool kids are there, too. Something is going on. Two older, cool girls are huddled together, and one of them is crying. One girl puts her hand on the other girl's elbow, trying to calm her. It’s clear they are having a serious conversation; it appears something’s at stake. Two older, cool boys are also huddled together. “Alright. Great idea. Let's mix it up,” one of the boys says. “We’re good?” They shake hands. One of the friends I’m there with is the little sister of one of the girls in the cool group, though her sister isn’t one of the girls huddled together. Whatever has happened, it’s dramatic, and all us younger kids want to know what it is, so my friend asks her sister, once things have calmed down. “The boys decided to swap girlfriends,” she says. “At first Jen wasn’t cool with it, but finally she agreed.” I look over to where the cool kids are sitting on a blanket. Jen's cheeks are red from crying. Her new boyfriend is putting suntan lotion on her back. She looks like she might throw up.
Edgewise: A Portrait of Cookie Mueller