About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom, winner of the 2017 Washington Prize, Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, New American Writing, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, Verse Daily, and VOLT.

Lucy Zhang

Spear Against Shield1

A man is trying to sell a spear and a shield. He boasts that the spear is so strong it can pierce anything. He continues to boast that the shield is so strong it cannot be pierced. When someone asks what will happen if you pierce the shield with the spear, the man falls silent.

A man is trying to sell a spear and a shield because the rice fields painstakingly test his labor and patience and yield no more than a steady trickle of money. The patties sweep across all the land in sight, and a donkey trots beside one field with sacks of rice tied to its back and over its sides, ropes taut against the sag. An abandoned straw hat rests on the dirt, a speck of yellow among tiers of green terraces. The rice paddies stretch and cascade along the faces of the mountain, forming a color spectrum, the product of different rice harvesting times, and if he just looks up, he might think it a marvel of nature. The man looks up to see how many more hours of daylight he has left to sell. Customers spend much too long haggling with him and pointing out imaginary flaws in his products but he stays resolute: his greying hair and tan speckled skin from long days under the sun and wrinkles branching over his face–under his eyes, across his cheeks–fail to dull his discerning gaze, even as customers clamor for weapons. Last month, the neighbor’s son broke his leg and narrowly escaped the draft–and after the neighbor sensationalized this blessing-in-disguise tale to anyone who would listen (temporarily forgetting that the son would never walk properly again), everyone had been spooked into buying weapons, terrified of the rumored battlefields of men wielding iron swords and daggers and archers mounted on Mongolian horses. He tells the customers: if you buy both a shield and a spear, you’ll get one additional weapon of choice free. Mian fei. The magic words that drive sales crazy.

A man is trying to sell a spear and a shield. He boasts that the spear is so strong it can pierce anything. He continues to boast that the shield is so strong it cannot be pierced. When someone asks what will happen if you pierce the shield with the spear, the man responds: how about this gun.



1 自相矛盾: direct translation – interacting spear shield. A Chinese idiom meaning: making a contradictory statement or claiming the impossible.

Playing Zither For The Cow2

The guzheng has thirteen brass strings stretched across movable bridges and a large wooden board decorated with carved lacquer and calligraphy. The musician wears bamboo plectra on four of the five fingers on each of his hands. His right hand plucks notes with such precision that even the children fighting over the last fresh zhi ma qiu, a deep-fried ball of glutinous rice flour coated in sesame seeds and filled by sweet red bean paste, stop to watch. His left hand presses the strings, producing an intense vibrato that strikes the hearts of the elderly performing their morning tai chi. He rotates his right thumb rapidly around the same note and the resulting tremolo turns the head of the farmer lugging sacks of millet to the market. He plucks another string, and a moment later, presses down to raise the pitch before finally releasing, the rapid alternation emerging as ripples, and the salesman whose shouts about discounted spears and shields goes quiet.

When the musician finishes playing, the children and elderly and farmer and salesman resume their tasks and he scoops the pile of coins on the ground into his pocket and heads to the rural side of town. He finds a soft patch of grass shaded by a tree and sits and closes his eyes. One of the grazing cows nears and snorts, waking the musician up. Upon seeing the cow walking in his direction, the musician wonders, perhaps the cow would like to listen to something beautiful, and begins to pluck notes into a song. The cow stops, bends its head down and chews at the grass. The musician incorporates Sweeps Without Bends, Two String Rising Slide, Flowering Finger, Moving Water Fu, Thumb Shake–his entire arsenal of skills. The music becomes so long and varied, it is more saga than song. The cow uses its tongue to grasp another clump of grass and bites it off.

The musician closes his eyes, thinking, perhaps the cow is too shy to show its appreciation of such musicality. And as he taps and strikes and plucks to the view of the backs of his eyelids, he wonders how long it has been since he last listened to his music.



2 对牛弹琴: direct translation – to play zither for a cow. A Chinese idiom describing someone who is trying to tell something to the wrong audience.

Lucy Zhang writes, codes and watches anime. Her work appears in Best Microfiction 2021 and Best Small Fictions 2021. She edits for Barren Magazine, Heavy Feather Review and Pithead Chapel. Find her at kowaretasekai.wordpress.com or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.

Nance Van Winckel

This Before That
This Before That
The Meteoric Life
The Meteoric Life
The Storied Place of the Story
The Storied Place of the Story
Just Snip the End
Just Snip the End
Nance Van Winckel’s ninth poetry collection, The Many Beds of Martha Washington, appears July, 2021 with the Pacific Northwest Poetry Series. She’s also published five books of fiction and is the recipient of two NEA fellowships, the Washington State Book Award, a Paterson Fiction Prize, Poetry Society of America’s Gordon Barber Poetry Award, a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship, and three Pushcart Prizes. She teaches in Vermont College’s MFA in Writing Program and lives in Spokane, Washington.

Edwin Torres

CELESTIAL SUITE: if I’m talking to you it’s because you can hear me

: : : NORTHERN STAR : : :


look at how I listen
to the wrong thing again
— disturbing a sky again
solstice calls
for more than feel-stice
action winter tea cup spiral
are you still with your love
who painted mine — what we say
to hear what we hear
— poetry can anything
if you let it —
wanna try to shadow twitch with tradition
look at how I listen
— to the wrong thing again


               — Sueñosima — when you see me — let me join this waking world —
driving for how long … and still no sun between these lines … for how many hours on the coast … with Spotify numbing … no singer’s lyric … no someone else … no summer sung at 4am … on a lonely highway … turn off and wait by the road … shuteye for a few winks
               — I’m all about the luminal
said the liminal … flatness is a virtue … for a dispossessed globe … let me close my eyes … and see if something else … comes to me … wants to enter … this prime season … of endless white lines … on a black year … past horizon … that gesture of … your turn now … to reach through what I’m given … not an ending … but a sequence



I liked living in the not-knowing
I liked the fog I was in
when I didn’t have a clue about you

there are fewer chances for mystery
as I move forward in my not-knowing
fewer moments of genuine void

that freefall is exhilarating
I wonder if that momentary arrival
in lack of ground

is made present
by the clearing
or by the letting


: : : SOUTHERN CROSS : : :

to be animal at the crossroads
to pack knowingly spare
to step inside the crevices by avoiding them
to reciprocate knowingly spare
to elevate ephemeral half-truths
scars of semiconscious attenuation

I had you in mind
the week is beginning or ending tonight, so I thought of you

the scent of your outline
mirror to mine, reach back
through a poem’s longest line, made longer to prove a point
honor the lost image
the forgotten form
once fleshed in spirit

we invent realities to explain our wants
the connective tissue of missing imperfections aligned
by the edges of our flight
if we were to scrape the burn impaled by our aim
by the faceless overture of awakening to creatures
we’ve never been

a crossing I visit
often, too many times, in midstride, I’m there
head turned, in each direction
crescent observers
me and my crossing, both of us, wondering
who moves who

Edwin Torres has taught and performed his multi-disciplinary bodylingo poetics for many years. He is editor of the inter-genre anthology, The Body In Language: An Anthology (Counterpath Press), and author of ten books of poetry including The Animal’s Perception of Earth (Doublecross Press), Xoeteox: the infinite word object (Wave Books), and Ameriscopia (University of Arizona Press). His work appears in Manifold Criticism, American Poets in The 21st Century: Poetics of Social Engagement, and Kindergarde: Avant Garde Poems for Children, among others.

Hester Simpson

—click on any image to enlarge—


Artist’s Statement


The echoes of childhood define who we are. We live in memory. — Benjamin Bush, Dust to Dust

My abstract paintings are founded in early memory, creating an emotional space that pervades my everyday life. This emotional space is what I paint. When I paint, I mix thinned acrylics to a pourable consistency, allowing an even flow over panel. I work slowly, building strata of paint in even, smooth layers, evolving mutable patterns. In this way, I record time spent, an accumulation of memory and of returning again and again to the activity of paint on panel. Color is the expressive component of my work, informed by dreams, memory, and theory. The interaction of purple, brown, green and yellow, for example comes directly from a dream, in which a visitor to my studio points to four colors on my palette and states, “These are your colors. This is what you must do.” I know immediately that these colors represent my immigrant grandparents, influential in my formative years, and essential to my present. While I play with systems of pattern and color, challenging what I know, I revisit these seminal colors during times of change.

In Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke describes this phenomenon:

And yet they, who passed away long ago, still exist in us, as predisposition, as burden upon our fate, as murmuring blood, and as gesture that rises up from the depths of time.

Such change recently occurred in the wake of my mother’s death and the clearing of my childhood home. What has emerged is a new form which pays homage to the life of trees, and how they bear witness to our own existence. My research tells me that we share 25% of our DNA with trees. As I pass them on my daily walks, they speak to me of regeneration. I respond with new paintings.

Work creates its own time. — Ad Reinhardt

Hester Simpson grew up on Long Island’s north shore in the embrace of her immigrant grandparents. Her grandfather, a painter, lavished his enthusiasm for art in every corner of life. Today, decades since his passing, Simpson credits his spirit with her own passion for her practice. Simpson studied at Carnegie-Mellon University and Cranbrook Academy of Art, and has been a Visiting Artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Tyler School of Art, and The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, among others. The highlight of her 30-year teaching career, however, is in leading and evaluating workshop programs for the homeless, the disabled, and the incarcerated. Simpson is represented by more than 30 works in the William Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection, a philanthropic arm of the Harlem Children’s Zone. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Gottlieb Foundation Grant, a Wolf-Kahn Exhibition Grant, and three residencies at The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico which transformed her sense of light and color, profoundly influencing her painting to this day. Simpson has exhibited her work internationally and is represented by Ricco Maresca Gallery New York City, where she has had five solo shows. Phyllis Braff of The New York Times has described her work as “mesmerizing.”

Dee Shapiro

—click on any image to enlarge—


Artist’s Statement


As in a dream of alternative realities, absurd connections, or on a trip passing familiar landscapes in unfamiliar settings, new conscious and unconscious associations are brought to a 2-dimensional surface in my work. In the recent pieces, geometry (seen even in the structure of organic forms) directs composition: arbitrary drops of color undermine control and create shapes that succumb to the overwork of drawings, rendering obsessive intricacies and paint application building the forms. Collage material adds extraneous influences in a subtle blend.

In the beginning was pattern. First the Fibonacci progression color coded on graph paper, followed by a series of work that included architectural elements off the grid. With all the work, always color, a nod to the Albers studies. A redirection to small horizontal paintings of the geometry in cities and landscapes ensued for a number of years.

Missing the early fascination and engagement with pattern led to more recent work exploring evocative biological and organic forms, the evolution of which is the more recent work as well as borrowing from sources that include other artist’s work in a collaborative effort.

Another direction takes me to appropriate iconic paintings of women by well-known artists in the past and to rework those images in pattern with paint, ink and mixed media.

Always a continuum in my current practice is the exploration of pattern wherever it appears in other sources and cultures as well as imagined and combined.

In this newest body of work, I am unflinchingly forging ahead to newly wrought terrain with the underlying echoes of the beginnings.

Featured in the Pattern and Decoration exhibit at PS I, Dee Shapiro has exhibited in New York and elsewhere since the late 1970’s, with solo and group exhibitions at AIR, Andre Zarre Gallery, Everson Museum, Nassau County Museum, David Richard Gallery, Bernay Fine Art and many other galleries and museums in the US and abroad. Her work is in the collections of the S.R. Guggenheim Museum, Heckscher Museum, Albright Knox Gallery, Birmingham Museum, William Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection, and other university, corporate, and private collections.


A painter who also writes and makes artists’ books, Shapiro’s practice explores the intersection of pattern, nature and geometry. Her imagery is borrowed and imagined from weaving, beading and the crafts of other cultures, as well as biomorphic forms overlapping within each individual piece. She employs a variety of media and has produced several bodies of work including systemic patterning, city and landscapes, prints and large figurative mixed media pieces. She has been teaching art history and studio art at Empire State College, SUNY, and Old Westbury, NY.

Zach Savich

Will is Going To

Waited to send the card. Waiting for the flowers to press. All the
mysteries from the shelf stacked on the violets in a coffee filter
in the Dictionary of American Antiques (1952). An awmry is a pantry,
a bahut is an iron chest, a chromatrope is “a magic lantern’s slide.”
Pressed between marble soap (“reference is not to appearance of
the soap but to a ‘soap’ used to clean marble, a paste of lye and
whiting”) and massicot (“an ocher color derived from lead
oxide”). I’m assuming grief will wait, or still be arriving, or be
something else, whenever dry becomes preserved. Which is
slowed by my looking. And my leafing (“Leaf: Patterns of
pressed glass featuring a leaf with other elements: Leaf &
Flower, Leaf & Loop, Leaf & Dart, et cetera”). Leafing to
diversion, which becomes relevant, that is, grievous, as anything
will, to a point, in time (“Leaf silhouette: A large leaf, bearing a
scene in silhouette on the skeleton of the leaf itself. Such work
was achieved by removing the fleshy part of the leaf not required
by pricking it out with a needle point. This was the method to
1850s. Thereafter acid was used. Few examples survive.”). She’d
been building a bicycle, planning a trip. Had just made lasagna.
How to bear the scene.

Poesie of Defense

Skunk smell in everything freshening, everything coming back
Up at the tree-line, which is where they stop, where we come
from them, up, having been down in them, trees
Upon the vertical meadow
Passable hours
Parsley walls, the deer leave alone
Lest whatever road is down the road once we’re a few roads
down, a few roads out
The name for an hour after sunrise
The admissible sky a simple crossword, simple syrup, simpering
boil lanced
As Caligula made losing orators praise winners in elaborate
speech, they failed and had to scrub their speeches from
stones with their tongues, after writing them there
Employing precious ink, worth the waste, the emperor said, for
its bitter taste, for the look on each loser’s face
Day making its losing speeches, resignation first thing,
preemptive separation priming its pen on the stones
For the pleasure of the look of precious ink on stones, perhaps,
equivalent to the bitter valley of the taste

“Only Connect”

Chances are,
in most situations,
you’ll mostly respond
like most people do.
And feel the insufficiency
and indignity
of that. And in response
to that indignity,
judge others’
insufficiency. You won’t,
mostly, have a choice,
which is fine because
you mostly won’t remember
most things, which is fine
as long as you continue
learning or forgetting
faster. Much as
19th century
naturalists who couldn’t
account for this
beast here and also
there, or companionable
rocks, separated
by seas, explained a lot
with land bridges, you too
should assume expired
links between facts
you can’t recall. For instance,
isn’t it the crossing
that made the land a bridge,
and wouldn’t the water
on either side need to
have been, comparatively,
continuous if cartographers
preferred to claim those once-
divided gulfs remain
one form? Semantically
speaking, a parted sea
precedes the water’s
rise, as from ice
berg chunks sloughing trapped
polar fur onto a water
bottle factory’s grated
floor, while elsewhere
gathered plastics wreathe
a hermit’s floating perch, mangroves
shallowly ballasting duct-
tape strung pallets
camouflaged as trash
to draw brackish garbage birds,
migrating nowhere,
he’s taking his chances he can
live on?

Elegant Regrets

The eye gets wider, in pain. It’s looking for something.

The doorway you shelter in—it could be your house, you could live here, nothing else to be done. Or wait there long enough. It isn’t your house. Go on.

The eye closes tighter. To forge.

Say the storm starts in the petals. Down they go. Is the storm still in them? The storm that starts in the petals—but isn’t in the tree.

Over by the time you see.

Zach Savich is the author of eight books of poetry and prose, including Daybed (Black Ocean, 2018). He is co-editor of Rescue Press’s Open Prose Series and an associate professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Elizabeth Robinson


for Robert Kelly

The promise did not promise
to be beautiful.

The promise was of labor,
not virtue.

You perceive the grail: it attests
to its existence, but, as always,

refuses to disclose its whereabouts.
And somewhere you find a landscape,

deep in that landscape,
whose particulars are your birth.


You, sojourner, find a stained
rag there, a faded scarf

which you read. Could it
have been so long ago

that you learned to read?
When reading is place

bereft of location. When the scarf,
once green, became bluer.

None. Known. Nonce. Anon.
Anonymous. Anomalous.


You had, perhaps become exhausted
with the saying of it when

the mistake blossoms: exhaustion
is the cure

for reading, for mapping.
Talk, in the hidden place

becomes the work of itself.
A scarf, wadded and stuffed

into the mouth, is exhaled with
great force. See how it lofts


on the words like a cloud
as they move definitely

away from you. Broken
perception is a place, even

“home,” if you will. The work
was never meant to be ethical. A thing

becomes its own imperative most often
because you live there and you break it.

Extensive practice. When finally the eyes
fail to read the broken script, then:


yes. You, having so recently heard
of this thing called reading, essay it.

Error-ridden sentence verb subject
you topographical backwards, the

ruddy and green layers of it. In this
placeless specificity, you assay it. Never

a map but a disemboweling, discovery
joyously fractures what it finds, and

deeper. Deep blindness of the word.
Its glee. The work rummaging


itself, mine brought provisionally
to the surface, silt bubbling into

all streams. Ash caressing this
particular scape like a silk scarf.

The practice of intention is
its own discovery, wise and

iniquitous. “There once was a story,”
you read aloud,

and it undermined itself
in receipt of its recognitions.


Home or fire? Work
or reworking? If there were a door—

should there have been a door—
entry onto what? Reciprocity

means also exit. And after it all
burned down, haven’t you wondered

why it’s always the chimney
that still remains? One spark

or another as the unseeing eye
forces a blurred word to register, a glint


made specific by indeterminacy. The
promise offered itself like a body

you may, or may not, have declined. A shapely
word, swathed only in a blue scarf, whose

dimensions fall away before the scarf does.
Down the well or into the mine, up

the chimney. The promise whose articulation
is “poof,” whose word


lingers as an aroma in the air. You quaff it
through nose and mouth. Smoke, too, is the embodiment of what’s broken.

It fills the dislocated grail with its syrup. You

have always felt its sting in your throat, the hole in the cup

that breathes on your behalf.

Elizabeth Robinson is the author, most recently, of Rumor, from Parlor Press. Being Modernists Together is forthcoming in 2022 from Solid Objects. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Big Other, Denver Quarterly, Fence, New Letters, Plume, Scoundrel Time, and Posit.. With Jennifer Phelps, Robinson co-edited Quo Anima:innovation and spirituality in contemporary women’s poetry, published in 2019 by University of Akron Press.

Peter Leight

Private Time

When I cover my face

there’s more space.

I’m wearing my turtleneck,

underneath is the shell,

sitting on the bed

or in a chair

next to my desk—

please leave the furniture out of this.

Personally I’d like to live with somebody

who doesn’t even need to live

with anybody else,

I mean she actually wants to.

Touching my lips

and pulling them apart,

picking a little,

as when you deadhead the irises—

I don’t know why it takes me longer

than anyone else.

In a country of one

no borders.

There’s no one to give a gift to.

No need to close the door.

I’m not even sure why it’s taking me so long.

When I turn around there’s an empty space behind me that doesn’t even belong to me,

I’m leaving the keys to everything I need to open

in a drawer I’m not going to open,

I’m thinking it’s that simple.

Picking at my lips,

as if I’m making an opening

for the shadows passing over my lips like a border crossing

and the shadows falling in my lap like a rest period.

In a country of one

you don’t bother to knock.

And never hit reply,

Pulling back my lips to make an opening for the watery breath that pools in front of me

like a gift you give yourself

when you don’t have anything else to give.

City of Separation

In our city there are two sides that are separated. The other one is different, it’s so different it needs to be separate—we’re not even comfortable until we’re separated from the other side. I mean how different something is depends on what it’s different from. Breathing the same air, we have our air on this side, and they have theirs on the other side, have you noticed the way the same things are often in different places? It isn’t that far away, just on the other side of our side, touching but disconnected like cells in an ice tray—adjacence isn’t a substitute for attachment. We don’t actually know what it’s like, we’re not inspecting the other side or investigating on the other side, that’s not what it’s there for. It’s true, everybody says it’s a mess, it’s the messy side, they don’t even know when to stop on the other side—everybody says they would ruin our side if we let them, it’s the first thing that happens. Of course, we stay on our side and they stay on theirs—there are sacrifices on both sides. There are signs on both sides, although we don’t understand theirs, and they don’t understand ours. We don’t even speak to them. What would we say? Once we actually waited for them to come over to our side while they were waiting for us to come over to their side at the same time. Were we waiting together? I think it’s better from a distance, better when it’s a safe distance, no closer than we are right now, it’s better when they don’t know us at all and we don’t even know who they are.

City of Meeting

Every time you open the door in our city you’re in the middle of a meeting that continues without interruption as long as everybody is participating, like a program that keeps going as long as you’re watching. There’s a place for everyone in the meeting, to be honest the same place is reserved for everybody, like a pie chart that’s undivided, without a single wedge. You don’t need to be pre-qualified. You don’t have to sit and wait—everybody’s sitting down at the same time, as long as you need to sit down you sit in the front with everybody else who’s sitting with you in the front or in the back with everybody else who’s sitting with you in the back, it doesn’t even matter where you’re sitting as long as you’re sitting next to somebody. Nobody’s saying no you’re not, or not at all, you don’t have any secrets you’re not telling because you don’t need to. Of course you can only be helped when they know what’s wrong with you. Sitting on the edge of your seat to make sure you’re not missing anything, when you open the door the meeting has already started, it’s the kind of meeting that continues as long as everybody has something to contribute, it doesn’t even matter where you’re meeting when every place is a meeting place. Not waiting for anybody to take your hand or give you a hand, it’s not about you. Everybody has something interesting to contribute, as long as you’re contributing there’s nothing wrong with you—if you have something different to say it’s even more interesting, it contributes even more. Honestly it’s the kind of meeting that continues without interruption even if you’re not participating, it doesn’t even matter how long you’re attending the meeting, as in a program that doesn’t end when you stop watching.

Peter Leight’s poems have appeared in Paris Review, AGNI, FIELD, Beloit Poetry Review, Raritan, Matter, Posit, and other magazines.

Patrick Kindig

corona, n.

A small circle or disc
of light. A halo, a ring
around the moon. As in:
the moon’s corona is shining
tonight, it has a corona
that shines. Like glass
or a bright fish, often
prismatic. As in: the moon’s
corona is in the creek tonight,
a silver ripple. The creek
is carrying the moon the way
a man might carry a king.

corona, n.

A crown-like appendage
on the inner side of some
flowers, such as the daffodil
and the daffodil’s close
relations. Royal lips
kissing the air, poised
to pollinate. More stamen
than petal: meet the plant’s
cock. Shaped like
a tube, a trumpet, a prolapsed
rectum. Its function is distinct.
Its function is unknown.

corona (lucis), n.

A chandelier suspended
from the roof of a church:
crown (of light), light
(of God). Darkness
is a sin. As in: where pleasure
is taken (from God), where
the eye (of God) fails. See
curiosity: the lust of the eye.
In a clean, well-lit place,
there is no need for wonder.

corona, n.

A solar halo, mock
sun. A sun throwing
its voice. Anthelion:
a bright spot opposite
the sun. A bright spot
where the sun is not. A
sun dog. A light in the sky
chasing its tail. Heel,
sun; stay, sun. Get in
your crate, sun, and
do as you are told.

corona (radiata), n.

A mass of fibers in the brain
spread radially from capsule
to cortex. Made of white matter,
well-sheathed. A transit system
prone to stroke, stuttering
processionals, funerals
in the brain. A kind of crown
beneath the crown: kill it
and kill the king.

corona, n.

A luminous appearance in the gas
surrounding a conductor, a sheen,
a shining in the night, the night
a cloud of air, the air a jar of lightning
unlidded, unleashed, discharged
like a patient who has completed
treatment, a soldier, a religious
office performed secretively and
with care, a gesture electric enough
to make the heart beat faster, not
strong enough to cause a spark.

Patrick Kindig teaches writing and American literature at Indiana University. He is the author of the chapbook all the catholic gods (Seven Kitchens Press, 2019) and the micro-chapbook Dry Spell (Porkbelly Press, 2016), and his poems have recently appeared in Copper Nickel, Washington Square Review, Shenandoah, Columbia Poetry Review, and other journals.

Kylie Hough

If I’m Honest

If I’m honest, the sky feels different depending on where I stand. You eat chocolate cake before the movie begins. We all want freedom but I am too scared to ask and you are too stunted to know. I have the feelings I have. You label me a conspiracy theorist but I think the parts of you you don’t show sprout wheatgrass. The earth spins on its axis in a matterless universe and I would like to give it up. You don’t talk behind my back and from time to time we meet and embrace like old friends. I converse with dead people. You come to my thing and insist on paying for copy that wouldn’t exist without you. I brush my teeth and smile white foam when I think of you. There’s a space in your chest where my heart used to be before I gave it to the comma. I sign a blank page with the words, For You Love Me, because I believe in something. You don’t have the feelings you don’t have. I read somewhere that to love a thing means wanting it to live. If it can’t be scientifically proven, you won’t leave the bedroom. It’s the way of us, but if I’m honest, the pursuit of liberation is an oarless raft on a flooded highway.

The Problem with Eggs

I told you it works like eggs. You shrugged your shoulders, said you never knew. I thought, there are a lot of things you don’t know about eggs and guar gum and binding and being bound. You insisted you didn’t feel trapped and questioned me about why sex worked like eggs. Not the polysaccharide composed of two sugars whose composition you would have quizzed me on had I given you the chance. Guar gum is frequently used as a food additive in processed foods. I nodded because we were bound and I couldn’t articulate an answer, only watch you chew steak or tune into the voice in my head that whispered I needed the bathroom or to feign a headache or to go outside and shoo the Great Dane defaecating on our front lawn. None of which I did because it wasn’t my turn and if there was anything more to sleepwalking in clingwrap without a compass, I needed to explore it. Yesterday. Like an egg navigates the oiled sides of a wok there was this feeling I got with you. A join consists of two ropes. One lead from you to race, reach, rage toward me. A gypsy unawares. Last year. There was the way I placed you on the top shelf with the strawberry jam and the Jarlsberg. The way you encouraged me. With a look, you took me by the hand and led me up the carpeted stairwell to the waiting king bed. Splice with me, you said and I placed your hand between my thighs. Instead of thickening, though, you split. This is the problem with eggs.

Her Last De facto

Can you see you’re torturing yourself? he said. Yes, she thought and took his right leg and plucked it from its socket much like she would a carrot from her vegetable garden. She stuck it on a cardboard rectangle by a pane of glass beside a wooden frame on the kitchen counter. You’re not thinking of the future, he said and she raised an eyebrow because she was always thinking of how good it would feel to disarticulate him. She removed his left arm with a lurch and placed it beside his right leg. Do you hear yourself? he said, which was strange because all she ever heard was the sound of his voice. He collapsed into a bar stool, with the face of a chastised puppy, and patted the empty space beside him with his remaining hand. She smiled, took his right arm in her left hand and shook it until it plunged pool-like from his shoulder into her waiting lap. I give and you take, he said. She waggled a finger then took a hacksaw to his head. His left leg came away with a tug. She pondered his parts on the counter and poured herself a gin. Pieces of him she arranged into patchwork. You’re mad, he mouthed mounted on the wall, and to a future replete with framed men, she lifted her glass.

Kylie Hough studies Arts at UNE in Armidale, Australia. A Vice-Chancellor’s Scholar, in 2015 Kylie received the Lucy Elizabeth Craigie Award, the Richard B Smith Memorial Prize, and the Australian Federation of Graduate Women Inc. (AFGW) NSW (Armidale) UNE ARTS AWARD. She was a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Award in Fiction 2018 and is published with Feminartsy, the write launch, Verity LA, and Other Terrain. Kylie is a grateful recipient of a 2021 Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Award Mentorship in Fiction.