09/26/2021

Laurie Blauner ~ Four Pieces

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.