Town lore held Madam Hodgkins to be a cougar. She lived in a large manor off the east end, surrounded by a tall fence with rusted fleur de lis atop every stoke that in some lights looked like an array of knives. Hodgkins lived by herself, they said, scrubbing the house once daily, hardly ever eating, or peering out the window at the high school boys who’d walk by. Or else she was writing letters to imaginary friends (her mailbox was always full of outgoing letters, but never incoming ones), tending to her twelve cats (which nobody saw, though she bought copious amounts of kitty litter every weekend), and doing what most single, unemployed ladies in their mid forties did, which for Bryant St. Martin didn’t amount to much.
So one morning when he received a brown-paper package on his front porch, addressed from Madam Hodgkins, he had no idea what to expect.
Not like vinegar touches the tongue
or the futile efforts to mow down cement
make the sidewalk bloom with daffodils and daisies
let the summer unfold in whispers and sideways glances
let the heat undulate above the asphalt
paths that lead us to park benches draped in shade
and supernovas launched from baseball fields Continue reading →
The first breath was my last: at the threshold I felt it seeping through the minuscule opening between jam and door as I reached for the bolt, tempering the cool air with its searing fingertips. The second breath, as the door opened, filled my lungs with a desert’s dryness, sinking to the pit of my stomach and making me want to retch. The third breath—I was at the precipice now, only steps from truly entering the world—came with raw heat striking my skin, slipping through the fibers of my clothes and tearing at my pores. The fourth, as I stepped into the sun, struck like a whip to my back, white paint onto black, a lion poised to attack. I staggered forward, my hands reaching, my eyes reduced to blurry forms of faded colors before me: is this all the world has to offer? Is this our destiny, drab and delusional? Saturated with life but devoid of the living?
The fifth breath took me to my knees, hands flailing over pavement, nails caught on stone slivers and lifted from the flesh, agonizing screams lost in a desiccated world.
Is this the emptiness borne of no inspiration? Is this my suffocation when I cannot write?