every day at three pm
the chime rings and
most of us ignore it.
we are sitting in front
of it; he in his wheelchair
and me standing, nervous,
moving  from side to side
with clench palm, straw inside,
unable to commit to the chair
I placed at the entrance of
the cage.

the birds in the aviary
smell their own shit all day and
think the bell is a taunting God
clanging from a distance to keep time
of their blinkered sentence.
they have flown less than one mile,
tired out on plastic branches
picking each other’s imagined nits;
stick legs and beady eyes that,
if bigger,
would reflect a melancholy
I always thought that myself,
or the willows wore best
                  but they have a rival.

I consider lighting the whole thing on fire
so they can rise to the clouds with the smoke;
use their wings for something other than
beating back water
during forced bath time when
that satanic effigy
in a hazmat suit approaches and
I’d give them tiny tools:
tiny lighters, tiny bullets, gatling guns
and the wherewithal to fire them.
ice picks for the stabs and
the insults to go deeper.
I’d help haunt him.
but they are small, untrained,
and they’d just eat the things.
smell the irony
when the cage fills up with
bloody stool and the devil
in white comes back to wash
them out.

my apologies are inaudible.
outside looking in,
gawking, checking my phone
for the time, an old love letter,
avoiding my clients’ increasing mucus
in his cough,
his impending question.
(no missed calls)
             do you think Sarah?
          in his Polish accent,
            sleeve half covering his mouth to hide the yellow
                            discharge.
.               I have a tissue in my pocket, wilting.
            unprepared to think of anyone but myself
               at this time in my process.
             (check the time)

             but they don’t get words,
fertilized; little beaks poking through
spotted eggs and
above all else,
birds with clipped wings
avoid the despondency
that liberty brings.
that bell rings
and I want them to know
               that the birds think that bell is a God?
                  muted sniffle.
                 I move past the withering Kleenex,
                      his equally decaying stare,
                         to check the time again
                      (no new voicemails)

that bell rings and
I want them to know
just how badly freedom hurts.

“the aviary”

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you’ve tired of her.

her proletarianism without true
protest           feigned theses and
shallow interests, a light
encroaching hum that spins into
white noise in the background while
you begin to obsess over another actress.
she can taste your indifference
in the space left of the mattress.
and anyway, you’ve been watching
tigers move.

you’ve been memorizing motion.
you’ve been stating needs and retreating
and she’s been stepping closer.
where’s the knife inside of you?
I say and
I’ve been eavesdropping.
I’ve been spinning webs.

you’ve been seeking the hunt in cats
and I’ve been catching mice
as traps
to rip it from your
nervous breath.

10.

and I came
full at them
to catch them,
hook in mouth like
hungry lure.

all day long I do mathematical equations
      they say I’m calculating.
in my head.
as I walk to the laundromat
shifting the hamper beneath me,
I think,
 that’s an understatement.

I think.

I think.
I think.
I love probability
like
what’s the likelihood I’ll see you again
believing I both convinced myself in this reality
and believe I convinced you it was true
so imbued in my delusion
but then God came to my defense
and I knew that as I watched
some things begin to sprout?
or the analysis like
how much money will I  make
if I do this appt and at what cost
to me?
and statistically speaking,
we have to look at patterns,
not just equations but
trends so then here comes
the past.

I turn the headphones up.

you gave me a bouquet of
weeds as I was drinking
my third cup of coffee.
you had picked them from
our backyard when I wasn’t
looking.
you were smiling with teeth;
big, and I thought I loved
you.

I had gone upstairs to
change into a sundress
and tore something near my spine,
suddenly, like a rip inside.
I mustered up enough breath
to walk down the stairs,
back to you,
where you had been standing with the weeds,
where you had been telling jokes,
where you had been laughing and I said:
it feels like I pinched a nerve
and am having trouble breathing.
what should I do?

you had to be somewhere
soon, I knew.
you looked up the staircase
on your way out
the front door and tossed a
I don’t believe you
over the living room floor.
someone else drove me to
the doctor and that doctor
confirmed it,
prescribed me Flexeril
for the pain and wrote me
a note explaining to my internship
why I wouldn’t be in that day.
I laid in bed, waiting for the
drugs to subside.

you came home
and attempted to justify
why you always felt
deceived by me.
I lay numb,
relieved of feeling anything as you recited
everything I’d ever done
that bothered you.
you weren’t sorry,
it’s Thursday and I feel
nothing for you
now.

I drop a pair of panties
on the sidewalk
on the way out and
someone calls me from
the corner.
I turn my headphones up

I feel nothing for you now
but history repeats itself.

“Thursday”

“There is nothing else in this world / like realizing / you’re going to live / and not being sure / you can.”

 

–Claire C Holland

She put her makeup on slowly. She wanted it to be correct. Never quite flawless, she was more adept at wearing graceful missteps to humanize herself in public. Tonight, she moved slowly. She paid attention to the brow bone, the jaw line, her full lips, all of her best features.  She stopped applying the powder to stare. The blush she chose was dark; a shimmering burgundy that ran across her face and cheekbones in the shape of a bruise– untidy but organic. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear examining the soft, honey waves falling over her shoulders first as they moved with her fingers, with the light twist of her neck, and then again as they settled over her clavicle. She wanted to see what she looked like as she approached in stillness and in motion.

“That took too much time,” she said out loud.

Moving her head back and forth in a slow no gesture to see what she looked like disagreeing, she could feel and see the skin of her lips cracking. She eyed the chapstick on the shelf but wet her lips with her tongue instead. We must move on. There was nothing she did for anyone without motive and no one was around to touch them yet. Setting the bamboo brush on the sink, she ignored her dry mouth and unyielding thirst to pick up the mascara. Carefully, she applied the wand to the eyelashes of her left lid and then immediately stopped to examine herself again. Unbundled and free, her thoughts had been leaping ahead of her. They were constant, persistent  and biting. Sometimes they were mean. You will never make it. It was distracting. They were being seized by something else (you will never make it); something distant, either imaginary or future she could never tell, but something tugging at her sleeve. Look behind you. She stopped applying the mascara to reach for the twisted, plastic straw from the sink’s ledge and began twirling it in her fingers on instinct.  Letting herself be overtaken by the fake memory; the fake way he held her, the fake way he smiled, the fake way it felt, she felt the rush in her chest.

“Stop it,” she barked at herself.

Staring at the mirror once more, she held her own gaze in trance.

“My name is Catarina Kacurek,” she practiced again.

She said it a couple more times out loud until she was satisfied with the way it felt rolling off her tongue. Naturally. Nodding, she put the straw back on the ledge and began to apply the mascara to the right lid’s eyelashes. It’s always like this. She couldn’t see the clock in the bedroom and was thankful. I’m late, she knew. Taking her time anyway, she could still feel the electric bubble running up her spine underneath to announce its arrival, announce its bones were growing over her bones into a grove of wands. I have things to do. She set the mascara neatly back in her makeup bag and pulled out the eyeliner. Dragging the skinny black pencil across the top of her left lid first, she felt a breeze, a draft from a hidden place to the left of her. As she fawned over herself inside, pretending he was next to her complimenting her as she coyly licked the cherry gloss from her lips, she let him praise the way her eyes grew from small and doting to big and black and full of infirmity. She let him kiss her cheek and she closed her eyes to feel it, his light kiss that held no real urgency. She felt his lips part near the corner of her mouth. She could feel his tongue poke out a little as she turned to meet him before she heard a car backfire a few blocks over. Goosebumps trickled up both arms. He was gone and she was gone too.  She opened her eyes to see the pencil was now in the drain in a pool of tiny drops of water. In her spine, her bone grove of smoke and scream and sudden life, she felt it. She stared at the pencil, now damp, not ruined but damaged like everything she owned. He was not with her in the bathroom. He was not with her. To clear her throat, her desert dry throat that desperately needed attention, she let out a tiny cough. She came back to life.

“My name is Catarina Kacurek,” she began, facing the mirror.”May I come in?”

She held it there, in her reflection, her dirty blonde and olive complexion not unlike her original self but twisted, distorted slightly like the way it feels when you finally see yourself without a mirror. You’ve been looking at yourself backwards. She was looking at herself angled her whole life; angled smirk, angled eyebrow lift, angled posture. Manicured and yearning and looking more nubile lately, she began wetting her lips again with her tongue. Her lips tasted like plastic fruit and she laughed aloud to see her smile lines so she could once again hide them when the time was right. She laughed aloud and the car backfired again but she expected it now.  Her spine grew. She let herself feel the backfire of every other thing in the distance.

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