A Case File

August 6, 2019

She explained how she had blown
off the legs of her father with his own shotgun and,

with the help of her bruised and weeping
mother, dragged him out back behind the barn, heard

the cows moving in the stays, as they
lumbered toward the pig pen, five hogs waiting

with eyes like dinner plates. They could
smell the bleeding. Her father was nothing but moans

and whimpers spreading ribbons of
red in the snow. Over the fence they threw him

then walked back to the house. I looked
back once, she said. Mama gripped my shoulder, turned

me back toward the mudroom and told me
there was no reason to worry, he weren’t coming.

The way they both strode tall, accomplished, regal
down the red carpet father had left for them.

The last kindness he’d done them, their eyes shining
through the early silver morning.

Dawson Steeber

dedicated to the immigrants buried in mass graves in and near Falfurrias, Texas

1. I walk through a bald field blooming violet onions. I will know I am absolved when there is no more dirt underfoot, when I have flipped the earth and the river runs above us, a glassed belldark sound.

2. To find: liver, lung, womb. A lens cut from vulture eye. This is what it is to miss a thing.

3. At the McDonald’s, a man in a parked car will talk himself awake. This is another kind of hunger.

4. A prayer for the king: forty pears, all bloomed from young throats. Long life, a sea of rice, a thicket of braids.

5. Problem: Four boats arranged in a cross drift away from each other in opposing directions. What theory states that, all conditions remaining equal, they can reach each other again on the other side of a perfect globe?

6. To understand a map is to shrink the world; to plan; to colour.

7. Can you smell the vinegar blood in the babes, stardappled. The survivors ride the beast train toward the North, over those rolled off onto the tracks. See their legs, scattered.

8. Olga in Minnesota: to be with her mother amidst rags of spring snow. For now, she is curled in the glovebox of a Chevrolet Cavalier.

9. Bless you, all that meat and milk, threaded. Pass, you fairer animal. Not you. I have seen the door in the water.

10. Solution: Magical thinking.

11. To panic is to feel all your wildness at once.

12. A flock of geese felled to the open plain, the lush grass confounds even the birds for passable angles.

13. We the holy, are never really still. Agitation pulls even at hanging planets.

14. Four sirens twist their voices — four dead in the desert borderlands.

15. In this dream, I am on a plane. I wake up to the pilot smiling down on me. No one flies the plane. Or, I am flying the plane.

16. The threads fly loose on each body, some sown to others, some not. But let’s not take this metaphor too far; we are better than the obvious.

17. A hero is a plane of being.

18. I think of a girl at space camp, perched above a better telescope than she has in her room. Tonight, she figures space as a map of horses. Blur, focus. Blur and focus. Tonight, the clouds will pull apart for her. Tonight, we will all dream of horses.

19. My ancestor says: Later, when I arrive at your house, I will hang a crown of flowers at your door. And yours. And yours.

20. And: Sometimes I choose to come through your television. In sleep, you will mistake me for dripping water. You will think you heard your father. We visit each other in these ways.

21. Plan B. From the moon, the earth is a crown of dark marble.

22. There are varying kinds of tragedy that produce the same outcome: paperwork.

23. And even if we were to save the trees, the hunger would still be so great something else would need saving.

24. The heads of violet onions, rooted child fingers, blue-leafed lips. An orchard, a mass grave.

25. I give you my coat and scarf in offering. I have no choice, I was born to saints in pilgrimage.

26. Papery purple skin.

27. Thesis: I swallow a bee for each ill deed done. I am a hive walking. I strain to hear you over the regret.

Vanessa Angelica Villarreal

ghostly gothic heroine

August 6, 2019

simultaneously wishing i were a woodland fairy, a maiden in the scottish highlands who is actually a selkie, a victorian naturalist who scandalously wears pants, a 1960s schoolgirl by the sea, a friendly forest witch, a reef-dwelling mermaid, a ghostly gothic heroine, or maybe a cat…..

i have lived through many ages

an ever-changing society

August 6, 2019

Conceive a world-society developed materially far beyond the wildest dreams of America. Unlimited power, derived partly from the artificial disintegration of atoms, partly from the actual annihilation of matter through the union of electrons and protons to form radiation, completely abolished the whole grotesque burden of drudgery which hitherto had seemed the inescapable price of civilization, nay of life itself. The vast economic routine of the world-community was carried on by the mere touching of appropriate buttons. Transport, mining, manufacture, and even agriculture were performed in this manner. And indeed in most cases the systematic co-ordination of these activities was itself the work of self-regulating machinery. Thus, not only was there no longer need for any human beings to spend their lives in unskilled monotonous labour, but further, much that earlier races would have regarded as highly skilled though stereotyped work, was now carried on by machinery. Only the pioneering of industry, the endless exhilarating research, invention, design and reorganization, which is incurred by an ever-changing society, still engaged the minds of men and women. And though this work was of course immense, it could not occupy the whole attention of a great world-community. Thus very much of the energy of the race was free to occupy itself with other no less difficult and exacting matters, or to seek recreation in its many admirable sports and arts. Materially every individual was a multi-millionaire, in that he had at his beck and call a great diversity of powerful mechanisms; but also he was a penniless friar, for he had no vestige of economic control over any other human being. He could fly through the upper air to the ends of the earth in an hour, or hang idle among the clouds all day long. His flying machine was no cumbersome aeroplane, but either a wingless aerial boat, or a mere suit of overalls in which he could disport himself with the freedom of a bird. Not only in the air, but in the sea also, he was free. He could stroll about the ocean bed, or gambol with the deep-sea fishes. And for habitation he could make his home, as he willed, either in a shack in the wilderness or in one of the great pylons which dwarfed the architecture even of the American age. He could possess this huge palace in loneliness and fill it with his possessions, to be automatically cared for without human service; or he could join with others and create a hive of social life. All these amenities he took for granted as the savage takes for granted the air which he breathes. And because they were as universally available as air, no one craved them in excess, and no one grudged another the use of them.

Olaf Stapledon
Last and First Men

Turned you wild

August 6, 2019

It had stopped snowing. Both of us were a little stir crazy, if you remember. So we went outside, and then it was as if the fresh, frigid morning air turned you wild –

‘I’m going to swim,’ you called.

‘You’ll freeze,’ I replied.

But you threw off clothes like an unruly child and leapt without hesitation in to the water. Splashed and squealed and went under. Then rose again laughing, like some primeval creature, half-water, half-ice, from a time before time.

I stood on the snowy bank watching your antics, a partly-aroused voyeur. I’ll never forget, when you scrambled out, the sight of your glistening back and your beautiful bottom…

the rush of rockets

August 6, 2019

The night was soft and persuasive. Overhead hung a summer sky furrowed with the rush of rockets; and from the east a late moon, pushing up beyond the lofty bend of the coast, sent across the bay a shaft of brightness which paled to ashes in the red glitter of the illuminated boats. Down the lantern-hung Promenade, snatches of band-music floated above the hum of the crowd and the soft tossing of boughs in dusky gardens; and between these gardens and the backs of the stands there flowed a stream of people in whom the vociferous carnival mood seemed tempered by the growing languor of the season.

Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth