Be calm. Categorize by level of threat. File by style. A red jagged letter needles my skin. Tell myself this is a joke. Linger in the hallway after school. Back pressed against the lockers. Look left. Look right. Wait for the invisible man who hides like sin and speaks like fire. Why are you there and why are you not there? My mind is a black puzzle in the night. Your face is the autumn wind, the middle of a school book. I log your calls 2:47 p.m. 4:21 p.m. 8:32 p.m. a trio of ravens.
How many calls, how many notes will I have to endure before I am on the other side of fear?
Come out. As if thread and rope are the same. I ride the bus home in an alabaster trance. Temer, as the Spanish teacher says, temer golden fields and ranch houses and rotary phones: “I’m the Only One.” I’m the green tree in winter—chop it down, burn it up. I’m the epitome of Bardo’s Schaeffer. I’m a slammed face on a sawdust floor. Fear is intangible unless it’s standing in front of you. The cops say, There’s not much we can do and the fat principal turns pink and smirks at words like hell, die, bitch. To be dismissed is an angry rape. To be laughed at is a man on fire. I hang like party streamers in the snow while classmates gossip over things that cannot be solved, things that are not theirs—but ours.
They don’t hide here, like me, beating red and bizarre-eyed: are you a harmless prankster or a fearless criminal?
Go ahead. Hurry with the pencil, deep purple and blistered, to widen the chasm of hell! Your words will be the bricks built into this school. Blue jeans rinsed with whiskey and mud you get what you get. Go to homeroom! Potheads—go to suspension. Painters!—hide backstage. Dancers!—smile at yourselves in the windows once it’s dark. Go ahead! Search the mall, the IGA, the street, the studio. Do it! Just get it over with. This is everywhere—and you are nowhere to be found.
My heart tells me you feed off happy birds flying into highway trucks—and keep a feather as a memento. If I jump off this bough to run away on broken legs—is it enough to let me be?
Steal peace. The chrysanthemum is a burning cigarette. The dark yard is the cave where you live. I reach into my backpack to hand you 16 – 26 + 36, the big fat needle, tu eres el fuego, the worthwhile slam, bubble gum. In the red sleep, a lost voice box buried in a forest, its vowels and consonants, statements and questions, now quiet from layers of gold leaves and cryptic snowflakes. Please hear me, it calls, please believe me, at two a.m., clumps of hair caught on telephone wires you’re right behind me 91313151820112 you have brown hair blond hair red hair no hair 1615513 you have brown eyes blue eyes green eyes no eyes 923914 who are you you don’t know you don’t know—I have more perseverance than death no one believes me no one is helping me come the tangled light of morning.
At least answer this: what’s going to happen?
Please stop. In your world, the headless female sings to you. No sympathy breeds no sympathy. The chosen, under your weight, are what you choose to do to them. The chosen learn that the past does not die with time. They don’t rebel for they don’t know who you are. They counter falsely, without a clue to the truth. I collect your hypothermic notes like dead leaves in a pool. Your words, “Be quiet, be good.” Your words would be. “What are you writing now?” Your words, “The End.” Send the bouquet of goldenrods and my blue lips sink to the bottom. By the springtime sun, the songs the lyrics the letters will have the option to remain or fade away.
Do you realize this is immortal like the breath of God?
Just forget. Box away schedules, yearbooks, locker combos, dried flowers, ticket stubs, and the notes. It’s the blessed, the gifted, the cursed who bleed the best. This romanticism of sex and death continues to rot. The hidden box is the leftover locket from a crime. To forget is better than to remember but both slide into its own resistance. Drink up the bittersweet premeditation of the school year. The end of Act One kicks us into oblivion—locked together in time—
Jenn Powers is a writer and visual artist from New England. She has work published or forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, Jabberwock Review, Calyx, Stonecoast Review, and Mud Season Review, among others. She is at work on a memoir and psychological thriller. Please visit www.jennpowers.com.
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