I Eat the Flowers on Your Grave
My baby’s breath rose from the cold, hard ground, steaming like that carriage horse in Central Park. The one I didn’t want to ride.
“It’s cruel. Did you never read Black Beauty?”
“It’s my birthday. Would you deny me, Lily? This one birthday?” His last birthday. We knew it then; remember it now.
His two lips nestled my neck like the bit in the horse’s jaw. “I could kiss you forever on a night like this. Forever and ever and ever.” Snorting snap as the reins jerked back; steam under streetlamp like lightning flash. "Oh, Lily. It hurts. It hurts so bad.”
Cold ran through me like wind on ice-sheathed bracken and I clasped his hands under the wool blanket which stank of horse and resignation. “We’ll go skating tomorrow at Rockefeller Centre”—all the way from Ireland for this last dream. “I’ll carry you if I must, you’re light enough.”
He nodded, head bobbing, bit unbitten, two lips a rictus of pain.
On the hospital bed, heart clap clop clopping like hooves through the cold, dark night — “There’ll be no Christ anthems at my funeral, Lily. No fucking flowers. No song and dance. Don’t let my mother at it. Thirty years since I believed those fairy stories. Stick me in an oven, maybe then I’ll be warm. Climb to the barracks top at Bolus Head and let me fly, fly across the ocean like all our dreams unbroken.”
Our kid curled like a beat dog in the daffodil yellow chair. “They think yellow’s gonna cheer me?” He’s powerless to reach him, to touch that gentle, slumbering head one last time. Light low in deep hours, his last, fierce entreatment—"Please, god. Please god, save me. I don’t wanna die.”
Black beauty hearse horse snorts by the gravestone. His mother beseeches, trying to take me from you one last time. “Jesus, Lily come away with you now. Father, do something.”
My baby’s breath – the ground fog, dew cold and crackling in icy filigree. Rose thorns rip my throat as I swallow, like the tangled clutch of the thing that killed you.
Barbara Byar is an American expat living in Kerry. A previous Irish Writers' Centre Novel Fair winner for The Corn Road, she’s had flash in The Fiction Pool, The Incubator, Words for the Wild, and Cabinet of Heed. She was short-listed for the 2017 Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award, long listed for the 2017 Bare Fiction Prize and won a Fiction at the Friary flash competition judged by Nuala O'Connor. She has forthcoming pieces in Flash Fiction February 2019 and Spelk.
Barbara was also selected for the Irish Writers' Centre 2017 XBorders project which explored the theme of Borders in literature and memoir. She is the founder and facilitator of a local writers' group and is a reader and Senior Editor for TSS Publishing, UK.
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