Stolen 3 (again)

“Just look at the state of you…you’re absolutely filthy…” I looked but aside from a few flecks of dirt underneath my fingernails there was nothing about my current state that warranted my mother’s accusation.

At eight years old I was perfectly capable of giving myself a bath but I was no longer human in my mother’s eyes. I could tell by the ferocity of the steam that the water was too hot. My mother was generally a mild-mannered woman but parties made her hysterical. She loved nothing better than to plan events but she was unable to enjoy them knowing that in those few hours all of her efforts at perfection would be nullified. I climbed into the bath of my own accord knowing that my mother was too frail to lift me. I said nothing. I cried a little to myself but I was careful not to make a sound. She scrubbed my boiled flesh without sympathy but I knew that she did not hurt me intentionally.

“Don’t throw me away…” I whispered underneath the terry cloth towel. I wasn’t sure if I wanted her to hear me but presumably she did. She hugged me for a long time and it seemed to me the towel around my shoulders grew wetter. She didn’t make any promises but I felt reasonably certain that if she ever did it wouldn’t be entirely of her own volition.

I ate my oatmeal alone that morning. My father left early and my mother wouldn’t eat again for several days having been forced to eat a few mouthfuls of cake at the party. As soon as my mother began her chores I would go into the garden and retrieve my treasure. I had until lunch time to discover the location of the door but I did not need it because I already knew.

I rarely went into the basement. I wasn’t sure if the sterility of the space made it any less scary but it was at least inhospitable to vermin. I stood for a long time in front of the door debating whether or not I should open it. I knew the room inside had to be large because there was a good deal of unaccounted for space. I tried to remember if I’d ever been inside but it seemed unlikely given the volume of my restrictions. This was my father’s room. A room that he disappeared into for hours at a time. He hadn’t been down here for nearly two months.

My father was a surgeon and therefore like my mother in regards to hygiene and housekeeping. I unlocked the door and stepped inside. The room was full of bookshelves lined with medical texts. There was a desk much like the one my father had in his upstairs office and a chair that was identical. There was a journal on top of the desk that looked exactly like the one he’d given me for my birthday, a plain leather-bound volume with no lock. Inside of the journal my father had sketched, in excruciating detail, the internal structures of the human body. There were other sketches, close ups that made me feel incomprehensibly squeamish but I could not understand their content. None of the drawings had faces. I supposed the faces were irrelevant. None of the entries were of a personal nature and although there were a number of notations accompanying each meticulously rendered image they were of a purely scientific and impersonal character.

There was no surgical equipment or specimen jars. There were no pickled body parts or metal tables with restraints. I was both relieved and disappointed. I opened every drawer in my father’s desk. They were filled with identical journals, the sketches and notations meant very little to me but I studied them carefully just the same. I perused the bookshelves taking out books at random but they were similar in content to my father’s personal notebooks. I knew the proper names for the bones but only just and I often forgot the bones of the face. I did not yet know the names of all the muscles. I knew the basic function of the organs but very little of their failings.

I opened a large chest, inside were bones labeled in my father’s tight, Gothic script. I picked up the skull. I understood that it was real but I wasn’t frightened. Flesh was what made corpses scary, decomposition. These bones were all clean and only vaguely human to my mind. They seemed to belong to the same person as there were no duplicates and only one identification number on the lid of the chest. The chest beside it was different. The bones were smaller. I did not know if the bones were from a woman or an adolescent. The chest beside that one had a set of intact bones. The full skeleton of an infant. I did not dare remove them lest they come apart in my hands. The disproportionately large cranium seemed nearly as large as the skull in the first case, I was not sure that it belonged to the same body but my father did not make mistakes. There seemed to be other anomalies in the head but I could not identify the source of the deviations. The eye orbits were too narrow for the organs they were meant to contain. The arms were only rudimentary. Though only a small fleshless creature I found it repulsive, not even pitiable, just repulsive. The first two chests had been marked with numbers but this skeleton had a name “Elizabeth”. I closed the chest, heart writhing I glanced at the final chest but could not bring myself to open it.



Stolen 2 (again)

I had an inkling as to the location of the door but I would have to wait until my father was at work to begin my investigation. I left the library using an alternate exit to avoid confrontation. I would have to hide the key when time afforded but at the moment I had no alternative but to rejoin the celebration.

Dinner was painful. I watched my mother cut her food into progressively smaller pieces. She rearranged her food, now thoroughly dimensionless, into careful piles. She created illusions of absence. She ate nothing but air. My mother did most of the talking. She talked on behalf of everyone. I could feel her voice tearing at the back of my throat every time I opened my mouth. I could feel her eyes in my skull, like two hooks. ‘Shut up. Shut up. You’ll ruin everything.’ She spoke to me with her hands. She tugged my sleeve under the table. I spoke only when addressed. I spoke in monosyllables and euphemisms. After dinner there was a short recess. I spent my recess in the shadow of my classmates. “Your mother is very thin. Is she sick?” One of the girls remarked off-handedly. “Oh no, she just can’t put on weight. She has a high…” I trailed off a high what? What was I meant to say? The girl waited impatiently. “Standard…” I had heard the words high and standard linked frequently in conversation.

“Well alright then…” The girl shrugged. She didn’t care enough to press me. I searched my mind in vain for the word.


When I entered the kitchen I could tell by my mother’s expression that she had noted, if only just, my presence. Her hand alighted on my shoulder like a frightened bird and she took, what I imagined was, the last breath of the evening. I had prepared an excuse for my unexpected intrusion but it proved unnecessary.

“There you are Eli! Come now it’s time to cut the cake…” She maneuvered me toward the large banquet table in the center of the dining hall. She had tears in her voice.

There were three cakes, one vanilla, one strawberry, and one chocolate presented precisely in that order. It had been determined, after much consideration, that vanilla was my favorite. Strawberry suggested vanity. Chocolate suggested avarice. Vanilla was prudent and therefore the only acceptable choice, I would not even be permitted to sample the other flavors.  If it really was that easy to alter a man’s nature then why hadn’t my parents taken more care with their own diets? Why did my father drink? Why did my mother refuse to eat?

My mother pressed the handle of the knife into my outstretched hand, but she was not permitted to guide the blade. I watched her take her seat, her knitted brows drawing out the terror in her smile. For this occasion I was permitted to sit at the head of the table, a designation I neither deserved nor desired. The guests, which existed purely for their own benefit, appeared sewn into their chairs. I stood motionless above the cake. The cake might well have been a body of flesh and blood and I might well have been a recruit in service to an unprincipled war. I swallowed but the lump in my throat could not be dislodged. “Well don’t just stand there Elijah.” My father barked. I slid the blade shakily through the cake. When it was my mother’s turn, I watched her delicately shave away a slice. Paper-thin. Borderline transparent.


I buried the key beneath my mother’s favorite rose bush. She was in the kitchen, embroiled in a war which offered no hope of formal resolution. She would scrub each dish until her fingers were raw from heat and persistence. Once clean she would drop them into the trash one by one, like the shells of discarded eggs. No one dared intercept her pathos and no one dared name it but the cause was obvious. My father retired to his study, drink in hand, he would not speak again until breakfast.

I had been careful not to kneel in the dirt and with my sleeves rolled up past the elbows I believed myself impervious to filth. Against my naked forearms the air was as sharp as a briefly applied cigarette. Not for an external chill but such was the shock of my violation. I had wanted for very little in my short life and had asked for far less but this key held the culmination of all those secret leanings. I patted the earth carefully knowing that my mother would detect the slightest disturbance. If she were for some reason vexed by the sight of the topsoil she might extract the entire plant. The thought that she could kill something she loved to appease her illness frightened me and though I’d never voiced my fear I often worried that my own eccentricities might invite a similar fate.

Wordle #117 “July 11th, 2016”

Week 117

Spin me off like a turnstile,
that I may enter just as I began,
benign and free of trickery.

Oh stars, ephemerids
of the deep black
grant me destruction,
that I may bribe
that lover of mine
for just a moment longer.

In the chamber of your arms,
in the ambisinister shiver of plush
and paranoia I stall narrow as a glance.

Is this itch a secret worth telling
or is it only a sneeze,
a dream, a cup of dice discarded?

(unrelated to the above poem. For the last week I have been taking care of 2 female guinea pigs in their owner’s absence. I have 1 more week left. Honestly, it is taking a lot more of my time then I expected. I am enjoying their company very much, they are ridiculously cute/sweet. Whenever I take care of animals I am a little OCD. I pick them food fresh from outside whenever possible, I buy them the most nutritious veggies I can get my hands on. I study about their behavior so I can interact with them. I study extensively about their nutritional needs so that I can provide them with the best possible diet. When I had birds my god they ate better than the humans, I handmade all their toys out of non toxic materials, I bought them the biggest cage I could afford, floor to ceiling for 3 parakeets. This is partly why I don’t have my own pets. Having pets just really triggers my sense of responsibility more so with pets than kids. I was like that when Isadora was a baby though I handmade all our cleaners, spent hours researching hygiene products and making them by hand, she only ate organic, no sugar, the best. Because as a baby she couldn’t make choices for herself (she had some preferences of course), I was responsible and now she is older and has more choices but for pets you are always making those choices for them. They are innocent so I feel I owe it to them to do right by them.)


Where has Yves been? I apologize to anyone I might have worried in my unexplained absence. Winter is hitting me hard this year and I fear I have entered a kind of quasi hibernation state. Eating, sleeping, compulsively preparing my den. My husband is also suffering with Depression and is currently feeling very low. Even my daughter is experiencing mood swings from bouncing off the walls to sulky/whiny. We are a fine mess! With the holidays everyone is home and so we have attempted several outings which have kept me away from the computer much of the day (come night I am too tired to put anything together).

While I have not received a response from every magazine I have submitted to, every one that has responded has replied with a NO THANKS. The rejections have been polite and none of them have suggested that I should never write again or that it would be a waste of time to submit again (some have encouraged future submissions) but they are still rejections. I am wondering if I should continue pursuing magazine publication or just go with self-publishing my own books? While I have found magazines that have some great poetry (none that have wowed with every poem but some gems), I don’t think I have found a magazine that suits me exactly. I think my writing may be too abstract but not so abstract as to be deliberately nonsensical. I think my work is in this uncomfortable state of quasi-reality that just isn’t fashionable, classification specific enough. Still, I think some people want to read my poems and I sure as hell want to write them. Only right now I am processing the rejections and feeling supremely vulnerable and guarded about the whole business. I will snap back. I know it but right now this is where I am.

Some of you may not know this but I am obsessive. My mom calls it OCD, I call it hyper-focus but who knows. If I am focused on exercise I will exercise several hours a day, draw up exercise plans, diet plans, weigh and measure my food, weigh and measure myself, read about exercise, watch exercise/nutrition related videos, dream about exercise, think about exercise nonstop to the point where anything not specifically exercise/nutrition related becomes a bother (did I mention I also talk about the topic until other people want to either join my obsession or murder me?). Right now I am like that about organizing. I lay awake at night thinking about boxes and organization but since I have literally organized everything in the house I am just sort of left picking up lint off the floor mindlessly whenever I am home. Maybe I have OCD, maybe! The thing is I am not that way all the time. I have 3 big obsessions diet/exercise, cleaning (as a kid this meant 3 hour baths daily and rearranging our house continuously), and writing. I have others but those are the big 3. As I said though I am not always obsessed, I can go weeks without being stuck but when I get stuck I don’t usually unstick until I complete the mission, if there is a mission, wear out or become frightened. I might get stuck on the exercise bit for a year and then realize I have lost way too much weight and the sight of myself in the mirror snaps me out of it again (I never seem to mind the buying new clothes part though, except when adult clothes no longer fit). I am hoping once my delivery comes in from Ikea with more storage boxes and I have sorted that it will be enough. If it doesn’t do the trick I may have to literally write a schedule that forces me to do other things for a while until I regain my bearings. Sigh.

Homing Pigeon

Pigeon Hole

Chris Lord

I could not understand him

The perimeters imposed

By his script being too narrow

To allow improvisation

And I lacking a memory

For motionless trivia

Found no joy in its repetition.


Each word, a homing pigeon,

An emergency delivered

In paper, like a cigarette

With only a tobacco stain

To disembark the senses.


He spoke only in haiku

A single-petaled flower

That answers before

The tension has risen

To its requisite tilt.


I could never unravel

His monosyllables

Within each yes and no

A world of possibilities

Tethered to scaly legs

And wings that lap the air

Like a basking tongue.

One might even mistake ritual

For sanity or happiness

If they are too proud

To admit the futility

Of their posture.


Perhaps he was empty

A blunt pencil vaulting

From page to envelope

With a single message between

A story, only two words long

A story, that says everything

And yet gives no hint

Of either ceremony or offense


I read that letter, its copies,

In his grimacing caricature

Knowing how very sorry

He must have been

To enter that nightmare alone

And I, with my coat on

Could not find the precise door

Otherwise, I would have followed.