Your heart would break if you knew how many times we walked back from the hole in the fence when the guards weren’t looking. My old jacket smells like incense and french fries now. It took almost an hour to tape our eyes shut. It’s the only way we could be trusted to go outside. The monotony of ice can be unbearable, so say the old explorers. We move slow against the frost. We keep reading the news. We turn to stone.
Fifteen layers of blue obscured the sky, but he was determined to peel off each one like escaping from an onion with the hope of someday catching a glimpse of the planet without its borders. It was a wintry night and icicles formed in his chest, growing from his heart and poking his lungs so that when he bent sideways, he experienced sharp jolts as if being stabbed or lied to by a lover. He rubbed his stubble, stumbling through explanations he would give when he reached the stratosphere and had to lie about what he thought he might discover. Such was the nature of the times, the red poison they’d given him, the green pills, the blue lies. Somewhere there was music, but everything had rusted over and no one had seen a bird in three years.
I had to put my coffee down when the ticket taker came to the window and asked to see my papers. She smiled like a wolf on a hot day. The archivists were trying to get rid of a backlog of surplus anger, eight years worth stacked neatly in a corner of the Capitol back in the 1890s. Starting bids for the smallest lots were only a few bucks, but you had to qualify. Promise you’d only use all that rage for good. You take bribes, right? I asked. She waved me in with her flashlight. Trains rumbled along tracks on the far side of the river.
First he thought it was the stars, that creaking groan and grind of tired years but with time the tension grew and he realized the problem lay not overhead but underfoot (as problems often do). Some days the gripping stuckness beneath his feet felt tighter and other days it felt looser like someone else’s shoes depending on where he walked and what he ate for breakfast. Out on the plains where the stars rattled so faintly as to be almost inaudible, he located the source of this tension, unzipped the blackland earth and studied the dull gears that moved the gears that made the world go round. He turned a wrench against the machine—so surprisingly simple to adjust, this mechanical universe—and retuned the planet’s motion relative to the earthly key of his own aspirations. That’s the way he explained his good fortune years later as he leaned back in the worn leather chair of his old age, smiling in the knowledge that he was now very close to achieving his lifelong goal of living happily ever after.
For Magpie Tales #109
She holds her smoke. She’s swallowed the sun. Tendrils drift blue from her nose, a curtain obscuring the year. Cars weave through the lot. She stands among leaves, refusing to flinch at the sound of tires rolling over gravel like fragile bones. Her resistance radiates through the trees’ bare branches and out to space with the smoke from her lungs as the light between her fingers fades. She flicks the butt to the sidewalk, a comet to inspire the prophesies and curses of the ants. She runs her hands through her long and tired hair, pushes open the door surprising herself by humming snatches of a tune she thought she’d forgotten. The ants gather to celebrate this thing, this fire, they believe is theirs.
Prose poem or flash fiction? Who knows. This is based on this old post from 2009.