Jonny Hughes CC
In Other Countries
Max called me—her acquaintance’s son suicided
in Canada—flew from the UK to do it. Her voice
quivered as if suicide had never entered her head.
Fact was she had thought it herself—
with surgical scissors. She would later show me how
she paused and wondered how deeply one could cut--
before what? And so, the magnitude of ending
one’s own story tends to render a seismic chill in us living.
I remember when my childhood friend Curtis drowned
with his father in some Canadian rapids. Took forever
to get his body back to the States.
A body is a property
once it is spent (sometimes
And with no goodbyes
or a funeral, he remains alive
in my dreams, only
he is forever fourteen, trapped
between here and dead. Because he doesn’t know
he’s dead, he smiles through his big-
ridged teeth and looks just like his last school photo,
still, his sun-bleached hair swept to the side,
standing in front of a fake blue sky.
Six for (Postpartum)
walled in by white towers
clad in ice gowns
strapped to a steel slab
electrodes matted to hair
she knows what mercy isn’t
scourge the body’s disease
in repeated jolts
her memory reduced to powder
they called it healing
their shocks to pneuma
in all the ashy clippings
everything becomes apartheid
memory gone / lost job / persecution
the devil’s bullies come and go
in their flimsy clothes
and habits, pulling each stitch
from her patched counterpane
as she wraps each ruptured bit
how to pay the landlord
how to feed her children
when every dollar’s spent
she knows, she knows choice
is not a bludgeoned spirit nor a body
and what her body gave her
has now too been plucked
if only one could choose death
just as god intended
she travels to her mind’s ocean
a beach before weeds corrupted land
warm sand covers her body
as sea expands into sky
pebbles evaporate water
she made her decision
as the sun lit their burners
A life should leave deep tracks
I still wear your suicide suit.
It fits me like a Trojan.
I have filled it.
Expanded like a rubber lung.
Eating. No Julie Newmar Catwoman
in this spandex.
Meow. But yes indeed. Pussy still got teeth.
When I wear it, I’m invisible.
When I remove it, I’m still invisible.
Comfort cuisine. Jesus-face pancakes. Grilled cheese.
Dollar-truck stop sandwiches. One for me and one
for you. I’ll keep you alive with food.
Your friend said she wanted to hold a service,
then didn’t answer my messages.
The disappointments didn’t die with you Max.
Shitfaced, I read you Kay Ryan in my yard
while you listened from a jar on a shelf.
Yes. Tracks. Max.
The neighbors in the golf cart showed up.
Conjoined evangelicals preaching
through their TV-frame roll bar.
If god can’t save them from queers
the roll bar will. Safety in twos. In golf carts.
Did you hear me? I picnicked you in the yard
while I read to you in your suicide
suit, while they judged our hare bare gay souls
while the sky spilled black ink, as my styrene
plate blew across the yard like a spaceship.
She said she respected your
(choice), a fiction, especially when it’s yours.
Life is fiction, a play. Death is essay and messy.
Your girlfriend who was not
a girlfriend harassed me
on Facebook and blamed me
for your death. She told
me you were coming to visit her.
You did not die.
I wear your suicide suit,
inside, I’m invisible.
Outside too it is cold.
Who did you shoot your picture for?
She said you were coming to see her. WTF.
I only called her to be nice.
We never actually met.
I still wear your suicide suit.
It fits me perfectly, although it’s a bit tight.
One ear sags. The tail makes my ass itch.
It’s been a year since you died.
My yard is packed with weeds.
Your lavender grows despite me.
Despite you. Your tracks hatch around
the plants in flattened trenches.
Three talking cats showed up in my dream
Plump and hunching, yet spry.
I recalled I forgot to feed them—ever.
They told me it was fine and not to worry.
They understood forgiveness is what
makes us human ( ).
They had mice and food from the neighbors,
they said. Like what food? I asked. Like heads
Of mice. And everything
they loved that was mice. We stepped
out the door to view the delivery gift basket;
I tried not to judge the mice parts
or smell cat breath, all of which
they were pleased with. They were happy
in a way only cats could be. Happy
with what the world gave them
in or out of a dark wicker basket.
Happy with their catness.
Back inside, human guests knocked
at the door; cats fanned out, two on the sills,
one on the couch top,
not saying a word.
Find work by Koss in Hobart, Cincinnati Review, Spillway, Diode Poetry, Five Points, Outlook Springs, Lumiere Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, and many others. She also has work in or forthcoming in Best Small Fictions 2020, a Diode anthology, and Kissing Dynamite’s Punk Anthology. Her book, One for Sorrow, is due out in early 2021 from Negative Capability Press. Find her on Twitter @Koss51209969 or http://koss-works.com.
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