Dear Readers and Writers,
It is no exaggeration to say that the selection process this time was "torture."
I had such a wealth of entries from so many perspectives and themes. I saw many new names in the inbox, and many from faithful, consistently brilliant authors who submit to many of our challenges. I'm so sorry to those I leave out. Your work matters to me. I post as many as I can, even though I have sometimes wondered if I should make a more manageable rule for myself, like choosing a set number to post for each challenge. Instead I try to include as many as possible, and most are still left out.
I am most sorry for the audience, who will not read the ones I had to leave out- we have extraordinary writers, the outtakes included.
I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to share my world of art history with you, and wait to see what you do with it. When you leave me little notes like "I've never heard of this artist before, and now I'm obsessed," or "I discovered something really interesting about this painting..." it is like I'm getting a love letter in my lunch pail!
By the time the rain did come, falling in graceless bucketsful from a stunned gray sky, she was ready to start walking, her bare toes oozing into the riverbank’s newly moist and supple edge. Each slight bend of knee, each miniature swivel of hip, brought each foot to land upon ground made instantly sacred.
After the drought’s many deprivations she was lighter, lithe and lean. She could feel her ribs and the space between her ribs and this felt like power to her. She lifted her arms daring the wet wind to carry her away. Then shook her head slowly, chagrined, when she remained earthbound.
She had known that walking away was as good an option as any, even before the countless heavy days of the drought had begun to crawl by and the others’ increasingly shallow breath and ragged frightened actions had begun to betray their fragile mortality. What had kept her by the flat brown crust of riverbed and its frail inhabitants?
Her musings as she walked were loose and disconnected, more vapor than solid. She was glad of this, one of the many gifts of the drought. A looseness to her thoughts to match the litheness of her limbs as she walked on, occasionally lifting her arms to shake off the wet and to match the wind’s power against her own.
Perhaps she had stayed because there had been so much to admire in them. She had looked with great interest to the groups gathered at first in earnest tribal unity, later in urgent volatile factions, finally huddled in threadbare pairs and threesomes. She had leaned in when their leaders spoke, inhaling their inspiring and confident tones; had delighted in the way their followers’ faith had fed and steered them. She smiled benevolently even now at the deep comfort that being near one another seemed to give them.
This line of thought was feeling too solid, at odds with her peaceful gait. So she released that too, smiling softly as it untangled and wafted away. She filled her lungs with another fresh humid breath. Now that she had started walking, she was able to move forward with only minimal effort, her feet finding the cold wet earth without the need for sight. If she stumbled or slid now and again it barely slowed her pace.
The others shuffled into her thoughts again. Their tenacity had made her heart swell. Their efforts had mattered so much to them. How passionate they had been about it all. How attached to one another they’d been and how they had clung to their plans and visions. She half remembered their hopeful expressions. And their bellies, rounded and relaxed before the drought turned them hard and their eyes even harder.
Her scattered thoughts shimmered then briefly coalesced into a thin fragile clarity: their mistake had been a common one, and a comforting one; they believed their strength lay in the cozy nest of union. But she knew that strength comes not from union but from the cracks between it. Dissonance is the real strength, she mused. This is the grit of life and its seed. In the disharmony we are forced to come up against one another - and right in the middle of that is where we discover ourselves.
This was too much now; she was surprised to find her lips pursed and her brow furrowed, squeezing her features into an uncomfortable nostalgic tautness. She let a breath rise to her face and released it all, delighting in the immediate freedom that emerged. Her feet continued to follow one another. She was soaked through ten times over and she could feel the pull of the rising wind against her limbs. She might have felt cold. She lifted her arms again to the wind, testing for flight.
Linda Sanchez is continually inspired and fascinated by the ways in which environment shapes us, and by our capacity to grow and change. Born and raised in New England, she has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts and an M.A. from the University of New Mexico. She is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, recipient of an Eisenhower Fellowship, and graduate of the Four Corners Writing Project in Gallup, New Mexico. She lives in Northern MA with her husband and two beloved dogs, more often than not in a state of bliss.
Masks Hide Even More
Afraid inside, the struggle, soul, and skin
Distress, it slits my selves, split seams I hem
A lot composed and seldom scant mayhem
My looks blend sight, sound, sorrow, song akin.
a digit rounds none in each random spin_
Perhaps, in mind, strings knit hallowed anthem
dusk through dawn, shadows whittling Eve's emblem
The mirror, whom it sees, are they, my twin?
Is that a crowd, or lonely selves; I there
Anima, Animus: Both realms ashore,
tired ghosts swarm dwindling lanes: Who knows Me here?
In sands are relics, some dark tales, folklore.
Houdini spell frees Us and from here-where;
those truths men know; our masks hide even more.
Dr. Rubeena Anjum
Dr. Rubeena Anjum is a psychologist and an educator. Now retired, she enjoys reading and writing poetry. She is a member of the Dallas Poets Community and the Richardson Poets Group. Presently, she is compiling her book of poems titled, Ladder of Light.
We are. We are our past, present and future.
Daring, cowardly, bold, evasive, waiting to be filled.
Black and white, all the greys between.
We are looking straight at ourselves in the mirrors
of our fears.
Men, women, and all shades in between.
Strong, weak, believers, non-believers—
we all share the same basic DNA.
Once we all left Africa looking for living space.
We mixed and matched and did what we must;
pillaged and plundered, raped and burned,
buried our dead with flowers.
Our empty eyes are windows to a newfound freedom,
released from the prisons of prejudice.
Let us remember who we once were.
No systemic separations.
We can’t give in now, we must wake.
Dark can’t eat the light but light eats darkness.
I can feel determination and a serious intent
to close the last divide,
the one created from ignorance and lies
intent to separate us from self.
Rose Mary Boehm
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. Her fourth poetry collection, THE RAIN GIRL, was published by Chaffinch Press in 2020. Want to find out more? https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/
Soul of the Man
Echoes of dark dreams
haunt him at dawn
like a melancholy melody
he can’t forget.
Soft morning light lingers,
but it won't save him from
night's daunting shadows.
Through the long day,
his restless soul
roams like a stray cat,
not knowing where to rest.
At night, he returns
to his troubled dreams,
once more falling under
their hypnotic spell.
The soul of the man
slips from darkness
to light, then back again.
The soul of the man
is a mystery.
Carol Stanton, a retired psychotherapist and teacher, lives in Pittsburgh, PA. She is a member of Carlow University's Mad Women in the Attic program. Her poems have appeared in the Paterson Literary Review and other publications.
Velvet cross-section. Moondark
puppet with fish scale eyes.
Charred loaves in the glowing throat.
Silver chalice overflowed.
A softened blade
pooling in the palm.
Love cut from memory. Future
severed from feeling. An arc inverted
Coal white skies.
Black hole halo.
Brenna Courtney studies at the University of Virginia.
How many people are living or staying in this body?
There is the tremulous self, sipping air through a narrow straw and beginning to levitate
The misplaced self
The self who sheds worries like virus particles
The torched self, spitting cinders
The honeyed self, who swims through cream
Are there any additional people staying here that you did not include?
The self with a wire snare, pulling at a thin scream
The indwelling self, with carved gypsum wings
The shadow self, who shrinks and grows with the sun
The self erased with correction fluid
Please provide information for each person living here. Start with a person here who owns this body. Or start with any adult living here. This will be Person 1. What is Person 1's name?
Incandescent Self, blazing like the arc of a flare
Water-fountain Self, tasting of iron
Uncertain Self, who keeps adjusting a smile, as if it were a mini skirt
Smug and Superior Self, fluttering long fingers to the crowd
Hero Self, striding in winged sandals, but hopping at times like an injured bird
What is person 1’s sex?
as in Cover Girl, combat boots, nails, accusations, and silence
What is Person 1's age?
Old enough to know the worst may happen
Old enough to tighten every cell & sphincter when she looks into the abyss
Not quite old enough to build a ziggurat to her own oblivion
Of an age to hire a consultant for a self-intervention
Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?
No, though her paper-cut skull is the hectic colour of marigolds on the Day of the Dead
No, though she embroiders her words with sequins and exile
What is Person 1's race?
Sometimes green and sometimes napalmed, like a triggered alarm
Sometimes tree; sometimes cloud
Sometimes donkey, loaded with baggage
Does Person 1 sometimes live or stay somewhere else?
Person 1 resides in a vault, buried behind locked doors and shrugs
Person 1 stays in opulence: newly-opened leaves and riotous flowers
Person 1 is triangulated between prime numbers as formula, proof, and theorem
Person 1 reclines on a pile of burnt matches
Person 1, flushed like the sky before it gets fully dark, lives in the ache of that blue
Priscilla Frake is the author of Correspondence, a book of epistolary poems. She has work in Verse Daily, Nimrod, The Midwest Quarterly, Medical Literary Messenger, Carbon Culture Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and The New Welsh Review, among others. Her honours include the Lorene Pouncey Award at the Houston Poetry Festival and a Pushcart nomination. She lives in Asheville, NC, where she is a studio jeweler.
This is me.
This is all of us.
This is the nightmare of living.
The unending turmoil,
the endless conflict within
tortured, lacerated souls;
the battlegrounds of conscience.
Light and dark.
I am Janus,
I am the face
behind the mask
behind the face.
Where in this unstable,
bellicose, virus-ridden world
does peace of mind hide?
Stephen Poole served for 31 years in the Metropolitan Police in London, England. As a freelance journalist, he has written for a variety of British county and national magazines. Passionate about poetry since boyhood, his poems have appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Poetry on the Lake, LPP Magazine, and two anthologies.
Nossa Luzes e Sombras
Quando minha luz
vira sua sombra
e sua sombra
vira minha luz,
quando eu olho
ao passado iluminado
e você olha
ao futuro tenebroso,
eu serei você
e você será eu.
E quando eu sou você
e você sou eu,
quando somos um,
somando uma coisa maior
que um de nós só,
aí, sim, nós teremos
paz, amor, tranquilidade,
fraternidade, religião, sexo, igualdade;
enfim um mundo melhor.
Our Lights and Shadows
When my light
becomes your shadow
and your shadow
becomes my light,
when I look at the illuminated past,
and you look
at the tenebrous future
I will be you
and you will be me.
When I am you
and you are me,
when we’re one
equaling something larger
than one of us alone,
then, yes, we’ll have
peace, love, tranquility,
fraternity, religion, sex, equality,
in short a better world.
Bernardo Villela has had poetry published by Entropy, Zoetic Press, and Bluepepper. He’s had fiction published with Coffin Bell Journal, The Dark Corner Zine, 101 Proof Horror, A Monster Told Me Bedtime Stories, Page & Spine You can read more about these and various other pursuits at www.miller-villela.com.
I am one
shadows and reflections.
I hold myself
in line behind
and inside the many
to this day again
When I falter
they hold me
to our truth.
As I wander
Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet who lives in the woods alone. She lives within gentle confines of many personas. Her most recent chapbook Checkered Mates focuses on relationships between people. Website: triciaknoll.com
I know all this has changed the insides of me
But you claim you don’t recognize me anymore
Don’t feel the familiar tug of my grooved expressions on your sleeve
I am just an apparition to you when once I was solid
So you can pass right through me and go too
There is no fanfare of machines to herald your exit
It is such a quiet leaving—the air does not even notice your absence
Yet for me—knowing you still walk in this new world— it is like another death
And I have no one left to remind me who I am.
And I have no one left to remind me who I am
Yet for me—knowing you still walk in this new world—it is like another death
It is such a quiet leaving—the air does not even notice your absence
There is no fanfare of machines to herald your exit
So you can pass right through me and go too
I am an apparition to you when once I was solid
Don’t feel the familiar tug of my grooved expressions on your sleeve
But you claim you don’t recognize me any more
I know all this has changed the insides of me
Adele Evershed is an early years educator and writer. She was born in Wales and has lived in Hong Kong and Singapore before settling in Connecticut. Her prose has been published in Every Day Fiction, Free Flash Fiction, Ab Terra Flash Fiction Magazine, and Grey Sparrow Journal. You can find her poetry in High Shelf, bee house Journal, Sad Girls Club and Green Ink Poetry.
a cadralor after the painting by Ismael Nery
Quartz, obsidian—a slurry, revolving, poured into place to cure,
washing light to dark in something that doesn’t quench, doesn’t drown or cleanse.
Seemingly animate in waking and slumbering, faced and facing
into crackling whiteness that binds even as it sands away bone--
forming an amalgamation that screams and bangs and stares blank, water
and crushed rock revolving in a cement mixer with sand and Portland--
a cataract sealing black and white in concrete-hard isolation.
Staring at my demon staring at myself staring at my angel
in charcoal and slate—faces blurring into one and a multitude--
this is how I wake every morning, trying my best not to stare
before dousing my upside-down head in cold water, the hissing tap
white liquid noise attempting to wash the night away from me, into
a reflection of pain that is inhalation, heartbeat, swallowing--
a continual rupture, river in dire thirst, swallowing the clock.
I never talk about my brother—I’ve mentioned this before—as if
words would manifest him, like the Invisible Man appearing
in a Universal horror film—skeleton, veins and arteries,
wet scarlet weave of musculature—in slow dissolve after dissolve.
It’s like watching my DNA say hi, one ladder rung at a time--
the crazy-ass relation who’d drive us both over a cliff to see
what sort of face I’ll make going airborne for the sheer, final thrill he gets.
Crushed quartz sparkles in the Mo-Sai concrete walls at the Mormon temple
in Westwood, as if the angel Moroni’s trumpeting in the sun
and sending it back out as light clear as pure, cascading spring water.
My great-grandfather was on the construction crew, mixing and pouring
all that inlay on the ground, high walls secured into place with cranes.
The Mormons let the crew’s families tour the finished temple before
consecration, but burned the carpets defiled by their walking on them.
It took me years to realize I wasn’t my brother with the same
diagnosis—a satellite orbiting the planet Bipolar,
not his rogue comet with its white-hot manic gasses. And yet how much
we were tied before birth to each other and couldn’t escape that trap,
rocketing through airless space when I look at myself, even now.
Obsidian cuts. Night slices outward from eyes and tongue, scalpel sharp.
And yet it is the whiteness I fear—the blank that is dawn, isolate.
Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published by Tebor Bach in 2021.
Artist and Poet
Poet flanks the artist
depicted in black and grey.
Words in black typeface,
eyes that see the night, white.
A presumption of innocence
graces sheets of a narrow bed.
Telephone calls captured
in neat corners.
A sister on the other side of town
known for hieroglyphics.
They finish each other’s sentences
as they talk of the perils of grey.
So much phlegm, so much throat.
Kyle Laws is based out of Steel City Art Works in Pueblo, CO where she directs Line/Circle: Women Poets in Performance. Her collections include The Sea Is Woman (Moonstone Press, 2021), Uncorseted (Kung Fu Treachery Press, 2020), Ride the Pink Horse (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing, 2018), This Town: Poems of Correspondence coauthored with Jared Smith (Liquid Light Press, 2017), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press, 2015), and Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014). With eight nominations for a Pushcart Prize and one for Best of the Net, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Germany. She is editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.
We went to a school for the arts, so weirdness
was expected. Strange that being alike struck
people as unique. Three long faces, Roman noses,
same brown hair, brown eyes, all five foot nine.
We began practicing simple movements
everywhere – turning our heads in the same
motion, no expression, when anyone called
to one or all of us. For performance, we painted
our faces half granite, half black, minimizing
differences. Our act was inspired by street
performers who freeze like statues until someone
tosses coins in their baskets – only we move
continually in slow rotations, swiveling
around each other. Eerie. Mesmerizing,
say critics. When we stay in close formation,
people lose track of how many dancers
they see. From winning our first talent show
through Juilliard to touring in Europe,
we’ve flowed like blood traveling the same
veins. Sometimes I can’t quite breathe
when I think of pulling us apart.
Alarie Tennille was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. She’s been so excited about the publication of her new book, Three A.M. at the Museum, that she hasn’t written any poems for weeks. Once again, The Ekphrastic Review rescued her from writer’s block with this challenge. Please check out her new book on the Ekphrastic Book Shelf.
Unborn yet -- male and female -- contending
Selves -- in the universal mother
Molds of the soul – shapes of the essential
Vessels -- bearing wonders sacred, timeless
I, you, me, them, we -- superimposed
Disparate halves -- one enigma -- fraught
Beset by charged visions -- minds stirred by dreams
Eyes colorless -- forever fixed inward
Mystery and solution -- intermingled
Merely captive figures within a frame?
Gregory E. Lucas
Gregory E. Lucas writes short stories and poems. His short stories have appeared in magazines such as the Horror Zine, Dark Dossier, and freedomfiction.com. His poems have appeared in issues of the Ekphrastic Review, the Literary Hatchet, Blueline, and in many other magazines.
that song, the one
on repeat in our being
you me me you
inserted into a requiem
of distorted dance, following
bones that leave
umbrage in their wake
skulls that tell stories
of what hasn’t happened yet
the dirge rises
and carries with it all corporeality
rivers that have no source
evaporating into darkness
the sky stilled
in the ruins of forever
thrown into the cauldron
the burning of origins
the pulse of transformation
these new portals
we pass like crow’s shadow
into a mirror of lies
A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. Follow her explorations on her blogs, https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/ (which she does with her friend Nina), and https://kblog.blog/, and see more of her work on her website http://kerferoig.com/
Standing in a Shadow on a Saturday Afternoon
We were as close as three cousins could be. Separated by a decade of years—five years on each side of me, we spent weekends together at our grandmother’s while growing up. The youngest, Joy, usually chose our activity Grace, the eldest then led our hijinks. I tagged along. True to their names they acted with grace and joy in all things, even our games.
My name, Victoria, seemed an anomaly since I don’t remember wining, or even trying to win in childhood contests. I followed the two of them, giving loyalty to both, hoping I would never have to choose between them, fearing a split.
However, life spilt us for a while— school, jobs, marriage. We moved apart, telephoning now and then when life’s darkness threated one of us, coming actually together in our home city for funerals, for good only after all three of us had suffered the pain of widowhood. We lived in apartments , separate from each other, but close enough for weekly lunches. Grace and Joy always chose the restaurants.
Last weekend, Grace called and said she’d located the current owners of our grandmother’s old brick house, the place where we had forged our bonds of sisterly love. We met on Saturday and toured the house with the new owner. In the yard, Grace pointed to the tree Grandma had planted by pushing a twig into the ground. It had grown into a tall strong tree. She turned to me.
“You are the one who always kept us together. When life went wrong for me, when Tom was ill I knew I could count on you to offer love and help and hope.”
“Yes,” Joy added, “You are the glue of our trio—always willing to work with both of us. As I grew up, it amazed me how you could act older with Grace and younger with me and how you loved us both equally. That’s what gave me strength when my husband died—to know your love was out there.”
In my own dark time, I had sought out both of them, both had offered solace. Standing in the shadow of the tree, our faces darkened by its shade, I felt the light of their love and how my love for each of them was well worth my place in the middle. They considered me the know that held our common bond together.
Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her poems, articles, essays, and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Lake, Ekphrastic Review, Pine Song, When Women Write, Verse Visual, and Verse Virtual, Red Wolf Journal, anti-heroin chic, Drunk Monkeys, and others. She has been a Tupelo Press 30/30 author, and a Gilbert Chappell Fellow. Her chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, is out from Finishing Line Press. As a performer, in schools, libraries, museums, and at festivals, she tells folk and personal tales featuring food, family, nature, and strong women. She was a Virginia Council of the Arts Traveling Artist and has told in almost all of Washington DC’s museums. She relaxes by walking the beach and sitting around the table laughing and talking with family and friends.
Into The Light
Walking out of the dark
we walk a fine line
between shadow and light
a black mass
weighs down our shoulders,
bulges our muscles,
fills our throats with stones
as it cleaves
our blank faces
with its numinous light
a light that is our inheritance
as we turn back to the past,
or lean into the future
to engage with our shadow.
Gods of the threshold –
Barbara Ponomareff lives in southern Ontario, Canada. By profession a child psychotherapist, she has been able to pursue her life-long interest in literature, art and psychology since her retirement. The first of her two published novellas, dealt with a possible life of the painter J.S. Chardin. Her short stories, memoirs and poetry have appeared in Descant, (EX)cite, Precipice and various other literary magazines and anthologies. She has contributed to The Ekphrastic Review on numerous occasions and was delighted to win the recent flash story contest.
Brittany Maynard and Us by Ismael Nery
Multiple faces of dark, gray, and black with bald heads and pointed noses make up Ismael Nery’s painting titled Us. There are at least four faces painted onto at least three bodies, representing the idea that we’re all made up of several faces we allow out in the world. The thing that catches my attention the most about this painting is the profiled face with a bluish mass in his head, as though he has a brain tumor. We all have this particular face—our “sick face”—we struggle to repress and control while barely holding down jobs and trying not to scare our children. We are all suffering. It is this sick face that I relate to the most.
On November 1, 2014, 29-year old Brittany Maynard drank a concoction of barbiturates to end her life after suffering with a terminal brain tumor. She was four years my senior. She’d been living in California, but when she was given six months to live, she and her family (husband, parents) moved to Oregon because it was one of the few states with a law commonly known as the Death with Dignity Act—a law that involves physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients who are suffering inhumanely.
I look up “inhumane” in the dictionary:
Humane—1. benevolent, compassionate. 2. inflicting the minimum of pain. 3. (of a branch of learning) tending to civilize or confer confinement. humane killer an instrument for the painless slaughter of animals.
When I looked up “inhumane” in the Writer’s Thesaurus, I was directed to the word before it: “inhuman”. Synonyms for “inhuman” are: cruel, harsh, inhumane, brutal, callous, sadistic, severe, savage, vicious, barbaric; monstrous, heinous, egregious; merciless, ruthless, pitiless, remorseless, cold-blooded, heartless, hard-hearted, dastardly; unkind, inconsiderate, unfeeling, uncaring.
While Brittany Maynard was making peace with her forthcoming death, I was in the first year of my MFA in Creative Writing program at University of Kentucky, driving back and forth between Cincinnati and Lexington—an hour and a half drive one way—every day. I followed Brittany’s story religiously. When she died, I grieved, yet I didn’t know her.
Sitting on the back porch with Pappap, smoking our pipes full of Granger tobacco, I told him about my emotional pickle. He was a retired Methodist minister and had studied phenomenology as well as psychology. He had been a medic in Korea and went to medical school for some years before he was, as he put it, “called” to the ministry.
“I don’t know why I’m crying again,” I said, trying to laugh. “This is so stupid.”
He puffed while he lit his pipe, which was his way of giving himself time to think before answering. He clicked the metal lighter shut.
“You’re connected to that girl. It’s understandable that you would grieve,” he said.
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“We’re all connected to higher consciousness. The thoughts and actions and emotions of people you’ve never met can impact you.”
By the time Brittany died, I had been suffering with severe chronic pain, with no answers, for seven years. The pain had begun in my left shoulder and neck and spread all over my body. I received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which, I had read, was a “garbage can” diagnosis—something with which doctors diagnose mostly women when all the tests and scans come out negative. Based on the definitions in the dictionary and the synonyms for “inhuman” in the thesaurus, I would say the pain was “inhumane”. Sometimes, the pain my brain created was so loud I could not understand what my professors were saying. Sometimes, I had to stop on the way to school or on the way home to lie down in the backseat of my car. I hated my Victorian poetry course because the book was heavy. Everything felt impossible.
Later, years later, I received a second diagnosis: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome—a condition in which the collarbone and first rib pinch the arteries, nerves, and veins in the thoracic outlet—that little dip behind the collarbone. Amazing how such a small space can cause such havoc.
God, forgive me, but I wanted to end my life easily and with my family’s approval. I wanted to lie in bed, drink a concoction of fluids, and die in my sleep. This fantasy has stuck with me through joy, mania, ecstasy, happiness…There is a dark side of my mind that has gripped the light side, much like the faces in Nery’s Us. No matter how much I try to dispense of this darkness—tuck it under my pillow, hide it in a tissue box, buy books to distract me until my bank account is almost zero, listen to music and sing at the top of my lungs as though I could exorcise the pain--the darkness of my “sick face” continues to reign.
But, you know, maybe that blue spot in the skull of one of Nery’s bald heads is not a tumor or an illness. Maybe it’s a piece of lapis lazuli. Maybe it’s a piece of sky. The only thing that saves us in this world, whether it be from our own suicide or a sentence that has been handed down to us (like Brittany’s six months to live), is our imagination. And I find peace in thinking that perhaps Brittany thought of death as a journey. Some days, I stay alive only in her honour. Those of us who are suffering inhumanely, but non-terminally need to be beacons of light for those who are considering giving up.
I want to be one of these beacons.
Megan D. Henson
Megan D. Henson is the author of two books by Dos Madres Press: What Pain Does (2018) and Little Girl Gray: Sestinas (2020). She received her MFA in creative writing from University of Kentucky. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband and two cats.