Breadcrumb #455

MAGGIE DAMKEN

If the body is a temple,
then mine is the house
of a fractured god,
god of peeled cherries
and pith. God of the crooked tooth,
lost enamel, bruxism;
god of the fumbled ultrasound,
god who sends doubting doctors
so to better teach you not to trust.
Mine is the god who refuses audience
until you’re two weeks deep
into the uncharted headache,
who listens best when you beg
for mercy from the toilet at 4 AM.
Mine is the god of the blistered bladder,
pelvic kidney, withered lung,
cystic ovary. Mine is the god
of unanswerable questions, a sphinx
speaking nonsense into flesh.
Mine is the god who takes no homage:
you sacrifice merely to learn how to lose.
Lose three years, forty pounds, senior prom,
painless sex, the blessed orange.
Lose walking. Lose fearless eating:
know the torture of the tomato,
the raspberry, the morning coffee,
know the futility of every choice
being the wrong one.
My god might be the god of Job,
my life ruined just as suddenly
and without notice.
I could say that pain has made me pious
but that’s only a half-truth.
My god makes you prove how badly
you want this life. You can have
anything you want if you’re willing
to walk over splintered seashells to have it.
Is one more livid sunset worth the bruise
you carry inside you? If the medication
that heals your bladder rots your liver,
which organ do you choose to save?
At the end of the test, the god of Job
gave him a new wife, new children,
soothed the festering boils inflicted on his skin.
If this is a challenge, I want no reward.
I choose this body made of sand and fire,
this body filled with stones and glass.
If everything must happen for a reason,
let the reason be this:
Sometimes there is no lesson to be learned.

• • •

Breadcrumb #454

CRAIG KITE

A

My shoulder pops when I rotate it. Also my grandmother is dying again. Last time she almost died her house burned down. She just laughed then and described what a soul looks like. My mother always calls me when death is singing shrill and I come down to see my Noni leak a little more out of her tired body. She is still alive and tries to look beautiful with a plastic tube slid down her throat. But her eyes say something in between I love you all, now please let me leave, &, Oh god, I’m scared. What’s going to happen to me? Some days I can’t remember my name. I named her Noni before I could spell my own name. It was a mispronunciation of the Italian word Nona. She tries to smile pretty. I brush her hair from her forehead and kiss her. She used to drive a school bus for handicapped kids. I could listen to her talk to me for hours. I never even had to say a word. It felt like a real grownup conversation. Now we crowd around the hospital room trying to lift her spirit, either toward heaven or the will to live. Her throat is sore and she can’t say my name now. I can’t tell if she remembers it. They had to resuscitate her yesterday. She was probably moments away. She wakes up and winces and I wince. 

My mother is a trooper. She’s paints the cabinets cherry. She paints the cabinets white. She paints the smoke show in my mind. She makes me move the furniture. Everything is a matter of fact built on distraction from the inevitable. She is stronger than I hope to be when I watch her die one day. My older brother is more financially stable than me. I’m better at focusing. I can beat him at arm wrestling.  Except I can’t. But I’m taller than him. 

In reality, I take much longer this year to respond when my mother texts that Noni is dying again. I don’t buy a bus ticket immediately. I am hiding in New York and tell my girlfriend I’ll go for the funeral. Or I’ll call mom tomorrow. I am just like my father, wanting to believe my presence is more trouble than help. My shoulder pops when I open my internet browser. I’m already worried about arthritis. 


B

Today Brett Kavanaugh’s seat on the Supreme Court was confirmed. Also my grandmother died. I’m not sure which is stranger, life or death. I’m not pro-life. When people die we say they pass away. When I was younger my body passed over the railroad tracks that run through Queens, New York and it was an adventure. Today my body passed under them a few blocks from my apartment and it was mundane. One day my ghost will pass straight through them. I’ll walk through walls whenever I want to scare a two-year old. My grandmother’s ghost would never do that. She was the personification of a hummingbird. There were always hummingbirds sipping sugar water from the feeders she put out around her house on Hummingbird Lane. She had figurines of hummingbirds collecting dust on every piece of furniture she owned and now nobody wants these nicknacks. Tylenol was Tomynol. She said words wrong but I liked hers better. She was the most racially tolerant and progressive of all the old folks in my family. And once when my mom asked her as child what would happen if a white and a black person had a baby, grandma said it’d come come out like a zebra. She was super good at Super Mario. Now there’s a fire behind my face and my scalp is all tingly. I still can’t cry but I feel out of my body early. And that is because I’m staring at her corpse.

• • •

Breadcrumb #453

QASSYE HALL

She tastes it as her tongue slides around the inside of his mouth. Stench’s sharpened nails weave into each thread of her jacket as his palms embrace her cheeks, his fingers caressing her ears.

“How does it taste?” His finger traces the back of her left shoulder blade and up into the bottom-lining of her hair.

She says nothing as he takes another hit, placing the lit pipe back in the empty box. “That’s not safe,” she mumbles softly; her bottom lip crushes in between his teeth, his breath –sour and sweet.

“How is this not safe?” His eyes display curiosity while his fingers mock safety as he packs the pipe again.

Her cheeks heat up. The seat, surrounding, swallows her. Her eyes and shoulders follow

the passing lights of a car on the street.

    His fingers trace each vertebrae of her spine, from the bottom to the top, meeting the bottom-lining of her hair once more. Tangling clumps of her hair in between his fingers, his hand massages her scalp – right below her crown.

“There’s only one thing that I can think of that will make you even more beautiful than you are right now.” Her head parallel with her left shoulder; his hand still rubbing, in circular motions.

She leans in closer, staring at his lips. His smile slips from one cheek to the other. She can feel his breath stroking the hair of her upper lip.

His fingers trace each vertebrae of her spine, from the bottom to the top, meeting the bottom-lining of her hair once more.

“What would make me more beautiful?” Her gentle words slowly feed into his open palm.

“If you take this from this box, put it to your mouth, and breathe in.” His soft smile stints a smirk.

She readjusts her head back towards the window, yet her hand migrates around her – a simple signal of acceptance.

Knowing what is at risk here, “Sure.”

She rubs her fingers against the tread of the lighter, igniting it to life, combining flame and plant to produce ash and smoke.

It rushes with striking attacks against her throat. The smoke sending signals to cough, but she resists, refuses to let him see her weak. Holding it in only makes it worse; her tear ducts filled to their rim.

His eyes dart back; she lets it go.

His eyes dart forth. “Another hit?” She stares at his lips with an impulse that beats against the desire of saying no.

Before pain and release can break free of their wet chambers, he rushes in for the rescue. His lips against her lips, he sucks in the smoke, birthing it into the world.

“How does that feel?” His fingers stroke her hair behind her ear. “Tell me how you feel?” His words bounce around an empty mind, echoing with pings and pongs.

He pushes himself forth for another kiss, another make-out session, and she begins falling deep. “I feel amazing.” She spills into existence. “I love it.”

He continues to feast on this, giving her more kisses. Her hands now wrapping around the base of his head, pulling him in closer. One tongue fights to suffocate the other. Soft moans purposely slip; she kisses deeper into him. His bottom lip now her teeth’s new toy – gently pulling on it. His hand reaching up the back of her shirt, fidgeting with the conjoined bra strap. Her laugh fills their combined mouths.

She lets go, pushes back. “Tell me what else can make me beautiful?” He smirks again, but he doesn’t answer. He continues to stroke that one clump of hair behind that one ear.

For her, there’s no anticipation; no desperation for an answer, but she detaches herself from his embrace.

Her cheeks inflamed, but there is no worry. The seat stops swallowing her. Her eyes gaze into his, and she smiles. He’s a fool to believe it’s real.

XXX

The smallest hand ticks loudly in the hallway as it crosses ten – eleven – twelve past two o’clock in the morning, just returning home from work.

She freezes; her father is in the living room.

He says nothing. Eyes are glued to the television. It’s Family Feud again. In his hand, she sees his pen and his yellow legal pad. That legal pad that he uses to play along with this game on television.

She goes onto her room, rips off the clothes that reeked of sweat and grease, and hides it at the bottom of her hamper.

Sitting bare-naked on the toilet seat and waiting for the shower’s water to heat up, she scrolls through her messages until she hits the last one, the last conversation dated for October 8th, 2016.

This is such a hard question to answer, but if you weren’t so lucky, darling, to have me in your life. ;)  Haha. But you’re cute when your eyes stare into mine after I’ve irritated you, but words can’t describe what makes you beautiful.

He had taken a long time to answer her question after he had dropped her off back at home, and it was in a text.

Her thumbs rub against the keyboard on the screen as she continues to read the last message that she didn’t know would be the last, Stupid Answer.

Tears run down her cheeks, catch themselves at her nose, but quickly drop to her screen.


He died in a car accident that night. Some drunk asshole ran through a stop light. T-boned his driver’s side door. The impact immediately killed him.


She throws her phone onto her bed, drops her towel, and lays on the floor. The last night in the car with him on a continuous loop of replayed memory in her head.

She groans to herself and wraps her body around the pillow she dragged down with her.

Her phone buzzes, but there is no budge, no desperation that draws her to see who wants her attention, so late in the night.

Headlights pierce their nails across her ceiling, distracting the candle light of her room with its beam of light.

She gets up off the rug, puts on clothes, plucks her phone from her thick sheets, places it on the charger and heads to bed.

• • •


Breadcrumb #452

CLAUDINE NASH

One October
a wind will rise

and lift all the parts
that slipped from you

each time
you traveled

too far from
yourself.

They had spilled  
everywhere. A

sliver here, an
edge there, a spot

of belief on
the table.

Once,
you dropped a fistful

of thought deep
into the dirt

and it wound
itself all

around the
grass seed.

(It’s no wonder
the path pulls

your mind and feet
in twelve different

directions and
jogging has

become such
a bear.)

Now,
during this storm,

the world will whirl,
but you will sink

your toes
into the trail

and stop
squirming.

The wind will toss
years of dreams

and debris
under your feet

so when you walk,
your strides and steps

will fit firmly
together.

Perhaps a smidge
of rusty gift

will blow by
or a speck

of third grade
will fly

into your
eye,

and when you
you look down

at the windswept
ground,

bit by bit,
you will

find
your way.

• • •