fiction, Uncategorized

Never Forget the Whore

I wanted to learn more about a Russian’s perspective on World War II, The Great Patriotic War, or according to some, simply THE WAR. Since paper turned out to be even more revisionist than memory, I asked around for those who may have lived through it. My friend Ivan’s grandmother spoke a bit of English and he arranged for me to meet her at her house on Tuesday. Her face was a mashing of slate and limestone, she had a button for one eye. She might have had hair, but it was hidden under a musty-green bonnet.

Her apartment was an antique apocalypse, strewn about were books, kettles, chair legs, mummified jars of pickled mysteries, numerous floral patterns creating an eclectic field of colorful dust-bunnies. Great booming closets and mirrored shelves lined every wall, housing dead photographs of even deader relatives. She navigated it well. In the kitchen she sat me in a chair with a flat piece of plywood nailed to two of the broken legs. I gingerly sat and took out my notebook.

“Tea?” she asked.

“With milk and sugar, please.”

She bustled about the dusty sink, taking tea from a tin and setting on an old kettle.

“So, how old were you during the war?” I said.

She didn’t turn. “Wait,” she said.

I waited, looking out the window through a mess of dead plants at the people walking past. It was summer in Saint Petersburg, finally. Outside people wore T-shirts and shorts with a desperateness that only comes in a place where summer is born a dead-leaf. The old woman came and sat across from me, placing a mug of plain black tea on my notebook.

“So, I am collecting stories from the war, from people who were alive and—”

“Bread?”

“Uh—no thank you,” I said, nervously. “So, I thought maybe we could start with the Siege of Leningrad, Ivan said you were a child when it happened?”

She looked out the window, then down at my notebook and untouched tea.

“You want to talk about the siege, but you don’t want bread?” she asked. She stood up and took a half-load of bread from a squirrely spot in a dirty cabinet. She cut a chunk and put it on a plate with some butter and a slice of cheese. I waited.

“Thank you,” I told her after she placed it beside my tea.

I took a bite.

“I remember going with my mother to bring bread to her sister,” she waved in a direction out of the window. “She lived not far from here. My mother would bring me with bread–we were more fortunate. She lived on the top floor of her building and people used to sleep in her stairwell, sleep until they died and there was no one to take them away, so they moved them into the windows. They put them there one on top of the other until there was no light in her building. Her children had died. I didn’t know them very well, but they died. My aunt too, one day. In her building she died because she wouldn’t eat, and they put her in one of the windows, too. I remember the darkness in the stairwell and I remember my mother didn’t cry.”

I didn’t write anything down as she spoke. She looked out of her window through the plants and sunshine. Her face suddenly went dark and she scowled at a woman passing.

“Her,” she said.

I looked. It was a young woman, she was wearing a light summer dress and she looked happy.

“She is a whore,” the she said. “She has been sleeping with the Jew who lives just there.” She pointed at a window, two floors up and across.

“He’s married,” she said ominously.

“Oh,” I managed, and with nothing else to say, I took a bite of my bread.

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art, poetry

Bouquets

I keep on trying to say
goodbye
but flowers
won’t stop blooming between
my teeth,

So I’ve found myself
a florist
who carries no pieces
of you.

Now
I don’t need the bars
across my bedroom
windows,

Nor take care
not to step on
shattered ego.

And she
doesn’t hold her broken heart
to my throat

Or
chase happiness
down freeways.

Instead,
she dances to jazz
and braids my flowers
into her hair,
believing
that they grew
for her.

Standard
poetry

Ocean

I have the timbre of
the ocean
in my bones,

And,

As she consumes me,
my lover says
that she can still taste
the salt on my skin.

I leap into the sea
to escape –
her,
life,
the phantom weight
of old lovers,

And the echoes
beneath the surface
are almost loud enough,
to block out

Her voice,
so full of the big city –
a shrill treble,
backed by synth-pop and alleyway screams.

I watch as she,
my albatross,
dives
squawking for me to stay,

But the sea’s hum
has me chasing rogue waves
into the deep,

And I
don’t drown,
because,

I

Have the timbre
of the ocean
in my bones.

Standard
art, fiction

How Do You Know if You Love Someone?

One of the most classic and clichéd questions is how to know if you love someone, so, I found myself, drunk with sleeplessness–trying to figure out some reasons, the first and most obvious being,

when I think of this question, I think of you.

If I were stuck as a fish forever, I’d want you to be a mermaid–

When I think of you, it is not a memory. It is a feeling, a touch, a taste, a smell; it is the way my body reacts to the idea of you.

Whenever I see something in a store, my mind tries to find any way to connect it to you, in the hopes that giving it to you might bring you some sort of joy.

I worry about getting drunk–or deliriously tired, and randomly asking you to marry me.

Some songs remind me of you–without ever having heard them before.

When I let my mind wander, it wanders over to you.

The idea of losing you feels like being on the edge of a waterfall–deafeningly loud, standing on a wet, flat stone.

I cannot trust myself to write anymore because love is like falling, and no one ever thinks too clearly when they’re falling.

So, you will just have to stay as a mermaid while I drift off to sleep.

 

Standard
poetry

How to Steal the Sun

I fashioned her a heartstring harness
and asked her to jump
and she did –
into the beds
of prettier men.

I asked her once more
and she did –
but this time,
onto a plane,
unravelling the gossamer
as it flew.

But I remember –

how she had
plucked
the sun,
as if it were some shiny fruit,
and,
caressing it,
showed me
that it didn’t have to burn;

it was poignant
and fleeting –
like her smell,
which had refused to stain my sheets
and clothes.

She left,
promising
to love me tomorrow,

and when she did,

I forgot –
how would tomorrow come,
with the sun
sitting snug in her back pocket?

Standard
art, fiction

Take a Taxi

We headed to Memphis
A city known for blues music
and segregation
(segregation is a thing
like when you’re a kid
and you try to keep your peas
out of your mashed potatoes
except you have an irrational fear of peas
and you’re a potato)
we had dinner at a place
that didn’t have any peas
they had shrimp though
and it was good–
blackened
We asked the waitress
for a place to see some blues
she told us about a place
in that part of town
(that is a thing that no one talks about
it is similar to them or those)
“Take a taxi”
she told us
“I always take a taxi
when I go out
in that part of town”
We thanked her
and ate shrimp

 

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