May 9, 2012 / Creative Writing
In “O For a Thousand Tongues to Mutter,” Jennifer Strange tracks traces of corruption—a fallen soldier’s body, a swarm of ravenous ants—in the “pale business” of our passage “in and out of life.”
October 15, 2015
The last time we saw each other,
bristles scraped through bleach
on porcelain as you tried to teach
me how to clean a toilet. I was nine.
You said it was the most important
thing you could tell me. My school
books and backpack leaned against
the wood-paneled wall of the living room.
I told you I loved you even though
I had seen you only twice before.
You told me to remember
how to clean a toilet.
* * *
The return-to-sender postmarks
on the Christmas cards I sent
you looked like breaking waves
swallowing the envelopes whole.
I suppose my mother kept them,
along with the letters I wrote you,
in the same box she kept the only
photo of you holding me when I was a baby.
* * *
When we were leaving New York,
my mother gave me your mother’s
obituary. It was supposed to bring
me closer to you. I stared through
the sunlight into the road ahead of us
where orange reflectors divided the asphalt.
* * *
I’m running down a stairway. Each flight
leads into another. The walls are made
of white cement cinder blocks—
I run my hand along them as I descend.
I look down and see the stairs
spiral around themselves like spooled
copper wire. At the bottom is a pool,
I stop, I jump. I wake as I hit the water.
My partner curls around me
in the middle of the night
as I watch the flicker of headlights
on the bedroom wall and door.
A part of me wonders if I could slip
away between the passing shadows.
Donald Paris recently graduated from Queens University of Charlotte’s creative writing MFA program. His work has appeared in Camel Saloon, Sonic Boom, and Eunoia Review.