Dead Leather

There is a photograph, her mother has it somewhere, of her and her papa when she is young – seven, maybe, all knees and cheeks – in an armchair in the backyard, a mass of old leather on soil and the sky like a wide stone above the fence. She is crouched on the seat in front of him and he holds her from behind, eyes and wild hair and bare arms around small shoulders. The chair is colored by time, its cushions stained with dark strands from rain and then sun and then rain again, old leaves and stems in its corners.

The memory is not in her body.

If, years from now, it turned out the photograph never existed, she would only insist on the sensation of its glossy corners poking into her hands. The certainty of his shorts being blue. But the things that push themselves out from inside the image – the sharp dead scent of leather, the soft pressure of bare arms, her leaning against his chest where his heart sits – are artifice. This she knows.

Other things are real. Other memories solid, too thick to stick anywhere. The back door open at unlikely hours. Phone calls taken in whispers. Her mother silent in the bathroom. The way rooms could smell cold, like basements, when they are recently empty of people. Him going on sudden walks and the way the air dragged after him.

His body asleep on the couch, jeans unzipped for his fingers to fit inside, the colorless pulse of a TV on no channel, vibrating on dark walls, and her, dizzy from stale weed and coming in late, wondering why it’s called static if it moves. Lifting his beer can to her tongue and tasting cigarette ash rolling in.

A hallway of dark yellow where secrets are dragged out of rooms and screamed about.

An open door closed.

His closet suddenly empty months later, so he must have come to get the rest of his stuff while he knew they’d be at school. Her equal relief and offense at the thought.

#

The armchair is in the backyard when they move in, her and her sister pulling trash bags of books and clothes across the coiled mustard carpet, their parents carrying the couch between them, her mother’s bones pulsing out of her forearms. She always forgets how strong her mother is.

It stays there when they leave. A vestige of years that wouldn’t get factored into decisions anymore.

It’s no big thing to leave a place. Plants never took to the soil anyway. The whole yard is just fence, a mini trampoline, and a big shape of dead leather.

#

The new place has a door with glass panes so she doesn’t have to stand on a chair and squint into a hole to see who’s knocking. And they don’t have to knock. This kind of house has a doorbell. And a garden. And chairs in the backyard – plastic folding chairs, the kind meant to be there, meant for the outside, chairs that don’t peel or fade or stain.

#

He comes by once after everything, distant in the doorway, to give her Patron for her 21st birthday. Did he know he was wearing her favorite sweater of his?

“I don’t like tequila,” is all she says, but she takes the bottle anyway, compelled by a cold wanting that swells suddenly from her ribs – a wanting of an exchange, of something mutual, of something solid to press into her palm, of a sensation that can warm her from behind like bare arms around shoulders, like a brown leather armchair.

She closes the door on him. But the effect is lessened when they can still see each other through the glass.

Nadia Prupis is a writer whose work has appeared in New America Media, Truthout, Ms. Magazine, Common Dreams, Dispatch, The Portland Phoenix, and other outlets. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Fusch, Austria

I hold a lighter to the dandelion.
God, You designed it so well:
a globe in flames, then gone.
All the children there, then none.

 

God, give me something besides wine
and hanging clothes to dry.
Give me the rigidity of a structured fear.
Don’t give me those eyes or that false Godly wit.
I haven’t had time for that since I was young
and certain and all that.
After all,
we will all go directly to Hell,
and I before the others, in my bright green dress.

 

God gave me some kind of peace of mind
when I was four.
I put it in my hands and made it make sounds under the water.

Now I throw a boiled egg
still inside its shell
into the river, fresh with glacier water
warmed by shit from horses, donkeys,
and even a lion they say, no doubt
locked up somewhere, roaring,
like the seashells I collected
through the years.

 

God asked, What do you hear?
I replied, A cow, or maybe a song?
and crept out on my belly to see a river of cows
walking together down the autobahn.

Elisabeth Blair is a poet, composer and feminist podcaster currently based in Michigan. Her poetry has previously appeared in publications including S/tick, Wicked Alice, Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag, The Literary Bohemian, Lilliput Review, and Acumen. In 2016 her first chapbook, We He She/It, was published by dancing girl press. In 2017 she was an associate artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, studying with poet Heather McHugh.

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Sister Monologue

Have you ever –
like –
I know what fear smells like
I get it on my hands

 
Help, little sister
Help me:

it’s probably still in the stupid package
and I’m too naked
to get it open

This is a reprint of work originally published in Can We Have Our Ball Back?

Elisabeth Blair is a poet, composer and feminist podcaster currently based in Michigan. Her poetry has previously appeared in publications including S/tick, Wicked Alice, Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag, The Literary Bohemian, Lilliput Review, and Acumen. In 2016 her first chapbook, We He She/It, was published by dancing girl press. In 2017 she was an associate artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, studying with poet Heather McHugh.

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Memoir of an 80s Child

Grass grew downstairs. We climbed in at one point
and made it our own. We came well-equipped, with desk
and bowl and books. We called it the name of the parasite
that is too beautiful; it should have been a girl’s name.
She told me there was a body in the kitchen,
in the cabinet, in the closet.
The attic was her place, not mine—
we staked our claims and I missed this.
I received the den, and old mail for a dead man.

Let it grow, just let it overgrow, we begged.
Our house in time. But they took it away, and we cried.

This is a reprint of work originally published in Can We Have Our Ball Back?

Elisabeth Blair is a poet, composer and feminist podcaster currently based in Michigan. Her poetry has previously appeared in publications including S/tick, Wicked Alice, Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag, The Literary Bohemian, Lilliput Review, and Acumen. In 2016 her first chapbook, We He She/It, was published by dancing girl press. In 2017 she was an associate artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, studying with poet Heather McHugh.

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Yup

I waited on them to come home, but I had not received
enough permission to pass the walkway

I could go as far as this

You know me, so you know how it must feel to be that obeying,
to listen to everything Mother is saying,

to wonder why it makes you so angry when it is so good:
she is good and the sky is blue and you’re lucky to have what grass you do

This is a reprint of work originally published in Can We Have Our Ball Back?

Elisabeth Blair is a poet, composer and feminist podcaster currently based in Michigan. Her poetry has previously appeared in publications including S/tick, Wicked Alice, Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag, The Literary Bohemian, Lilliput Review, and Acumen. In 2016 her first chapbook, We He She/It, was published by dancing girl press. In 2017 she was an associate artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, studying with poet Heather McHugh.

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Martinsburg, West Virginia

We were in the state side of the jail. My cellmate would sit and make faces at the federal prisoners from the window. Every meal we got a roll and he would save half his roll and feed it to the ants throughout the day. When they came through the wall, he’d block the hole with wet bread so they wouldn’t leave. He named the ants, each one. He would speak to them, answer for them, and herd them like cows.

He was in for beating his wife.

This is a reprint of work originally published in Humble Humdrum Cotton Frock.

Elisabeth Blair is a poet, composer and feminist podcaster currently based in Michigan. Her poetry has previously appeared in publications including S/tick, Wicked Alice, Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag, The Literary Bohemian, Lilliput Review, and Acumen. In 2016 her first chapbook, We He She/It, was published by dancing girl press. In 2017 she was an associate artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, studying with poet Heather McHugh.

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I Have Deleted My Facebook Account

What I’m trying to say is, you have no way of reaching me now. I have moved away from the city. I have disconnected my phone. I stopped checking my messages ages ago. Even the mailman doesn’t bother with the coupon-clippers anymore. Nobody comes here. You couldn’t find me anywhere if you looked, except that sometimes I sneak back into the city at night and leave ribbons tied to the chain-link fence behind the bar where I used to work. The ribbons are for you—I hope you find them. Maybe you will think they are sort of beautiful. Maybe you will think of my uselessness, my silence, when you think of the way a few limp, tattered tongues of silk make the alley seem like a place girls on their cigarette breaks sometimes still practice kissing as if it were an adventure. If you do, though, don’t try to find me. I don’t want to hear from you. I have deleted my Facebook account, and my Instagram. I have finished with Tumblr. Where I live now, there are no bars. No signal, and no noise. I have removed all the glass panes from my windows, and even the screens. At night, I tell my little jokes to the empty field. The crickets sing them back to me, undoing the punchlines one stringy syllable at a time. It is very lovely and lonely here, without you. The evening breeze enters my house by drawing aside the curtains just a little, and the curtains give way like flimsy ribbons on a chain-link fence. In the morning, there are wet leaves on the floor, and sometimes a spider. You have no way of reaching me—even if you loved me, even if you wanted to. This is what I’m trying to say. If you have something to say, say it. We are all of us useless now. The nightingale, the lark—they have outlived their sonnets, and gone back to the namelessness they were singing about.

Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic heritage of her ancestors through poetry and creative nonfiction. She is a columnist for SageWoman, and her writing has appeared in publications both in print and online, including Stirring, Eternal Haunted Summer, 7×20 and Third Point Press. You can learn more about her work at http://alisonleighlilly.com.

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