This Shouldn’t Happen to Anyone
It is hailing. I hide in the snow, pretending to be a whale or an elephant in a faraway room. I was once a part of you, a dangling finger, something scowling in a sock or underwear. You can’t get rid of me that easily. I’m growing hair, waiting, considering how to sneeze my way out from under this cold weight. Ice balls batter, molding me into a useable shape, maybe human, maybe not.
Hello, I yell when my mouth arrives.
I try to shift a new arm. But only a whistling wind answers.
I’m aging already. I remember you, happy and buoyed by touch and through sharing secrets with others like you. But I don’t remember if I was abandoned or accidently misplaced, splayed as I was on the ground and then buried by weather. But that no longer matters.
Help, I call weakly, feigning vulnerability, scissoring my lengthening toes and feet. I must save my strength.
I will wait for any passerby for as long as it takes. By then I should be able to tell my story, any story. Maybe by then there will be a river of flowers and leaves and a warm, inviting, yellow sun. People and their animals will stroll by, wearing next to nothing.
Come over here, I will beckon.
Where? They will answer, perplexed, seeing hardly anything that doesn’t blend in.
Here. Come closer, closer.
Until one of them will finally replace me.
The Next History of Accidents
Foreign words burst from the child before he magically disappears, becoming tiny bubbles that rise and float away, vanishing into the sky. Because his mother wishes him gone every morning we all line up in front of her hoping the same will happen to each one of us.
I truly don’t know where he went, his mother claims, but, he’s free.
We don’t care, we all say, meaning anywhere but here.
On a normal day in the camp, we recoil from each other, refugees dressed in layers the deep gray color of bad weather. We are thin, bony, weak, in our tattered clothes and we shuffle between watery gruel, the medical tent, and the barterers near the barbed wire fence. All of us are of a certain persuasion and were rounded up by the military, individually as well as whole families of children and grandparents. There is only so much to go around beneath the ruthless gray slice of sky, with its unassembled clouds, like some rotten pastry thrown upward by a guard toward a ceiling, sticking above.
I’m here by mistake, each one of us tells anyone who will listen, someone adjusting their shoes full of holes and pebbles or a little girl playing with an old newspaper. We’re always trying to share our stories and excuses.
Right now the mother stands in the center of the bare yard, littered with two broken chairs, conjuring, and screaming, I miss you. I didn’t see it coming! She tears out her dirty, limp, dark hair.
What’s it? We ask, assuming she means fate or god or an accident. If only we could discover the answer, we think.
I need to take care of him, to be with him.
Somewhere a baby is crying and something metal hits something wooden. The odor of urine and rotten food surrounds us. This has happened to people by people before and will happen again.
The woman’s child hasn’t returned.
I Don’t Want to Do That Again
Answers that whisper to my bones are: I do it because I love you/ I’m supposed to/ I have to/ I’m coerced to.Bodies pile up, with tiny ears, wet throats, limp claws, brute mouths, flimsy cartilage unzipped to unspooling organs, and bits of stray fur.
The animal confesses, I wait at the bottom of your bed each morning but you will never really know me.
I’m lost, I declare, studying a diagram of my animal’s body.
I lift its paw but I don’t like predicting its future, or mine. Instead I swallow any wind caught between my teeth. I make too many mistakes, I decide, as a car leaps over a hill and hits me hard as if it is trying to tell me something I can only understand through violence. After I’m dead, another animal crawls out of my body and tries to stand on two legs, just as it’s watched me do many times.
Mementos from The New City
The city was made vigilantly, sky disappearing, buildings expanding and unfolding like trees. Its monuments are moments in time, reinvented every year. Inside, people hide their soft parts, adjust to narrow doors and the small remnants of windows. Air rakes its fingers through our hair. I live with my brutal mistakes, birds in cages, decorative pillows and blankets, photographs of family who appear melancholy and wounded behind their smiles, and you.
I’m humorless as I curl on the kitchen table, unspooling a hissing package, left at our door, that reveals a cat, which gazes at our tiny rooms and returns to linger inside its box. I ask, Can I keep it?
Why can’t you collect pinecones or books about pinecones? You answer. And what about the two birds?
We put on dog masks, resembling daily dogs we see on the sidewalks, and chase the cat around, so it knows how the birds would feel if it decided to make trouble. But it doesn’t change.
I dream of going to the country, whose space the city is jealous of, although I flinch when touched by a bush or a fern. Land around the city is camouflaged by gurgling streams that sound like traffic, trampled grass, houses built through repetition of the same architectural error and the invention of sky. The city might overrun the country sooner or later, but before that happens, I’d like to live there with our birds, cat, and furniture. We continually create new stories for our objects, until something in a mask chases them out, taking their places.
Laurie Blauner is the author of four novels, eight books of poetry, and a forthcoming creative non-fiction book. She won PANK’s 2020 Creative Non-fiction Book Contest and her book, called I Was One of My Memories, will be available in 2021. A new novel called Out of Which Came Nothing is forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil Press. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, The Nation, The Georgia Review, American Poetry Review, Mississippi Review, Field, Caketrain, Denver Quarterly, The Colorado Review, The Collagist, The Best Small Fictions 2016 and many other magazines.