Mothering this unbothered
Feeling at play here. Cinnamon
Sticks as just that: sticks:
Senses, unraveling: the smell
Of you, so many untruths:
I contradict myself today.
Sprigs of thyme, I can’t melt:
Can’t breathe the length of bark
Running up my chest:
Bees chasing a spiral, bumping
Heads: I lack any direction
Today in this season of unrest.
Push my skin and it stays. We’re
Inside the summer heat. Nothing
Grows on purpose over here. Yet,
The kiss of air today, O yes, felt
As teeth sunken into apple peel.
Give it a moment and stay.
Anthony Aguero is a queer writer in Los Angeles, CA. His work has appeared, or will appear, in the Carve Magazine, Rhino Poetry, Cathexis Northwest Press, 14 Poems, Redivider Journal, Maudlin House, and others.
I remember what he looked like riding a bike. He’d sway his body with each pedal, go no hands after the speed of a long hill had calmed to coast. He’d watch his tires weave enough to dodge the broke off pieces of gravel. Hop off by choice instead of lost balance. Park it outside the store by dropping it in the grass. Wipe chip dust on his shorts before swinging his leg back up and over. Cold blue drinks coat his throat and gather in his middle. Pedal to abandoned houses down train track off paths. Throw rocks at an old refrigerator up against a tree. It made its way outdoors before the owners left for a new place we couldn’t know. We said out loud how wild they might have died inside. Might never had thought until then about how a body goes from life to lifeless, then lifeless on the floor to a hole with a headstone to mark the dates of a beating heart.
He had a jumbo tooth, one of the front two. Had it fixed later after I knew him. I saw his picture somewhere and he smiled to show it off. He took a spill the summer his laces were untied. He came out of his shoe when he went over the handlebars. I inspected his mouth. He told me the pain was bad enough to cry. He put his tongue up the front side of the jumbo and felt gums thin enough to make into a hole. He curled his lip up so I could see if his teeth were chipped. Coated pink. Couldn’t find the right bandage. He called me on the phone once and told me he’d grown enough mustache to hide the scar beneath his nose.
Inside the abandoned house our footsteps pressed into the floorboards where the wood was close to rot. The kitchen tiles had a warp that made the edges crawl the walls. Rain water gathered in the middle the size of a birdbath. Cupboards held teeth marked cans of beans. The white squares of tile blackened with grime where the refrigerator had been. A plastic bread bag grown with mold, the tie still tied to keep the air from getting through. Crumbs of neon moss.
On the way out, rotten wood was too dead for my foot and I fell through until the knee. I hopped, hand on his shoulder. We spent our allowance at the pharmacy for tweezers and a soda. Under the tree by the bank he took out splinters from my shin. When he swiped one from in my skin he’d count it off out loud. He took off his shirt and wrapped the soda. The cold of it calmed the pain. It was enough he’d done that he checked his watch and picked up his bike. I remember his back in the sun and him taking the turn it took for him to take the road home. I made plans to spend the next allowance on sunblock to protect our backs in summer sun. Untying the t-shirt let the soda fall to the grass. I opened it up and let it spray. Some of the sugar got on my ankle. I drank it in three gulps. The road I took home was all left leg.
I’m in the mirror with shaving cream on my face. I swipe the razor and half expect a scar to come out from under my mustache. In the front yard my shoe has come untied already and I bend down to correct it. Behind my jeans, I feel the indent of where the splinters went from floorboard to my skin. When I rub it I feel my back in the way it feels when you’re sunburnt. On my way to work I stop by the store, go inside and buy a soda. It’s cold and it’s summer so it sweats in my hand. I gulp it fast twice, hoping I’ll forget why I bought it, and save the last sip. I open my door, pull up my pant leg, pour the soda on my ankle bone. The rest of the day I feel it sticky. I let it itch at night. I convince myself there’s a pulse through the bone. My heart sends blood down there. In the cupboard is a bandage that will cover up where I had itched.
She wonders how long the last thought lasts. She stays aware of her eyes able to see through the water. Fish are pulled toward her. They bounce off her body before they pass through the grate. Punches that would knock the air out of her if she was still breathing air.
Her feet don’t reach of the muck of the river bed. The fish see her levitating against the grate, stuck from the direction the river takes.
The girl wonders if the fish will leave her ribs bruised. She wonders what her brother will do with the rest of the time he has. She thinks about first kisses. Are they only electric if the lips on the other end have been hit by lightning?
She hears the rush of the water dropping down to fill the lake. She feels her cheeks pushed back, skin tight, not a smile she’d wish on anyone else’s face. The lake stays calm, lets itself fill from one side and empty out at the others. Boats on it go no place far on windless days.
Her mother made this dress for her two times ago that her father had been gone. It was the first dress she’d gotten from her where she didn’t have to worry about growing out of it. She thought she could feel it starting to tear. The holes in it let her see her skin.
If she was fish small, she’d fit through the grate and land in the lake and resurface for air. She thought of her last sip of milk. It came from the udders of her favorite cow. Her favorite cow didn’t give her her favorite milk, but never fussed either, barely raised a knee until the bucket was full.
Before this grate, this dam, there was a waterfall. She would have liked to see how the river emptied into the lake. The falling of the river spread out across the channel.
She made burial plans in hopes her brother would follow them. Tomorrow, he’d wake up and dig a hole big enough for a cow. It would take him all morning and longer after lunch. When he was finished he’d crawl in and make sure it was the right size for his sister. He’d pray that whenever it was he’d find her, he could bury her before the father would get home.
Niles Baldwin lives and writes in Kittery, Maine. His work has previously appeared at Green Mountains Review and Fanzine.
On Building a Home
The figs are almost ripe
They are green, but a hint of mauve escapes them.
I like them unripe, but you say ‘let’s give them one more day’
Tomorrow they will be brown and purple
You will smell them and say ‘I guess we’ll have figs another day’
A month later you will throw open the door,
Say, ‘Honey, I brought figs!’
And I will kiss you
Running in Place
Every day I get closer to tomorrow
Except when it’s today
There are many hearts in this house
But none of them are mine
I go around collecting faces, collecting words
I put names to the sounds of the wind
No, I am not good
But all I do is try to be
The closer the walls get, the farther I go
Wearing off the smell of this floor from my shoes
If I am to die in this house,
I am dead every second I stay here
But the farther I go, the closer the walls get
So I put a picture on the closest one
We all die in one house
Brishti Chakraborty (she/they) is a nonbinary teenage lesbian living in India. When they aren’t doing massive amounts of math homework, they can be found in the aisles of a secondhand bookstore. Her work explores the intersections between being brown and being a lesbian. Find her @richard_siken on Twitter and @brishtiii on Instagram, or at goodreads.com/brishti, where they are excessively active at all times of the day and night.