ISSUE TEN | SPRING 2018
THE WOMAN TRIES TO FIND A CLEAR SWATCH OF SAND TO SIT ON. ULTIMATELY SHE PERCHES ON A HEAP OF TRASH. SHE WAITS FOR THE MAN TO ARRIVE.
The man mounting the sand dunes. Hey, he
calls out. He falls across her, sinking his
knees into the sand. They separate.
Grasping the garbage sand in his palms, he
says, Will you join me tomorrow to hang
posters for the climate protest. Sure, she
Coupling, their hands. She says, rubbing his
palm, Remember when I told you I didn’t
feel like I was from anywhere. He says, No. Her mind slips into the sand, which rumbles with the force of the cars passing across the
freeway overhead. Her swimming mind
comes up for air.
A paper towel is blown by the breeze,
revealing a dead seagull laying underneath.
Its body limp on the sand, its wings
splurched on a scrap of foil. She says,
There’s a dead gull by your boot. He says,
The man, kneeling, with his ear close to the
bird’s chest. This bird is still alive, he says,
arranging his lips in a crude grin, I can hear
its heart ticking. Guess I’ll have to kill it
He stands suddenly. Smiles a little bit as his
body composes a blue shadow across the
woman who is prostrate. Her heart suckles
excitedly. The unexpected pressure of the
man standing. He says, I’m so much taller
than you. She agrees.
The man’s watch, the sun eating it, grey
flash, as his watch slides across his wrist, and
his wrist twists the gull’s feathers, and the
woman smells the spray of its blood falling
across the sand. A slow departure; a blue
feather floats, floats.
She says, You’ve pulled its head off. He says,
Guess I don’t know my own strength.
She says, Can you put it back together. He
says, I don’t think so. Drops the gull parts at
his feet. Wind splatters her hair against the
side of her face. My shirt is ruined, he says
looking at the flag of blood.
As they walk back to the car he says,
Remind me later, I have a question to ask you.
A question, she says, touching her ring
Yes, he says, later.
ON SUNDAY, PROTESTERS GATHER ON THE CURB SEVERAL STORIES BELOW THEIR APARTMENT. WHOSE SIDE ARE THEY ON, THE WOMAN ASKS THE MAN. ONE SIGN READS, KEEP COCA COLA AS OUR KING. THE WOMAN IS PULLED OUTSIDE TO WITNESS.
NO CORPORATE TAXES, one sign
reads, LET POWER BE POWER. Frowns
and signs and cameras and clicking of
cellphones and rattling of elbow grease. The
woman sees a gaggle of protestors detached
from the crowd. Flashing their cell phones.
A cow bleeding in the shade. What are you photographing, she asks one of the
protestors. Decay, they say. Light beaming
off a black skyscraper.
Looking the woman up and down, the
protestor says, Is everything alright. Inside
the woman there is a cow bleeding for
oxygen. Her starved limbs rustle. In spite of
all this noise, the woman says, Yes, I’m fine.
FUCK THAT LIBERAL HAIR, a sign
propped against a skyscraper.
Climbing the winding stairs of her
apartment, she puffs, comforted by the
clicking of air conditioning, where the man
is reposed on the couch. His belly poking out
from his pajama bottoms. His fingertips
shine with grease. An empty plate at his feet.
He says, Did you figure out why they are
protesting. She says, Something to do with
coke… He interrupts her by chortling.
Pushing his body over towards her in the
doorway, he says, You just don’t get it, do
you. He looks blank into her eyes, pouring
himself inside of her.
His breath smells like stuck tar.
Wrapping his hands around her neck. Skin
folding. Breath cinching.
Her eyes look down at his grip. A swatch of
hair on his wrist. As if he wasn’t actually
A man is something to believe in.
THE MAN AND THE WOMAN WANDER ALONG AN AISLE OF THE CANDY STORE. THE STORE LIT BY HALOGEN LAMPS AND POTTED FERNS. AN AUTOMATED MIST WAFTS FROM THE CEILING. SHE STARES AT A ROW OF LOLLIPOPS WITH SUCKERS SHAPED LIKE DOLLAR BILLS.
His nose is pointed down. A pink candy ring
glistening. A pane of smudged glass. He swings
towards the woman. Brandishing the ring.
Kneeling. Oh, she is trying to blush as he slides the
candy ring across her finger.
As automated mists squirts out. From the ceiling.
Splashing down her face. As the man sparks to his
feet. Squeak of his alligator boot.
He unfurls his fingers. Towards a basket of taffy.
Spreading his finger-digits. An electronic claw.
Grasping wrapped candies. Between his fingers.
Unwrapping the taffy. Looking at the woman, he says, Every time you breathe out, you release carbon
monoxide into the atmosphere.
Everybody is a criminal, she says, We all litter and eat and breathe out.
The man looks up. From his taffy. A steel flash in
his eyes. Not unlike a spark of recognition.
What did you just say, the man says.
Tacked to the wall. A poster of a lady. In a pink
bikini. Preparing to drop. A tuft of cotton candy.
Across her tongue.
The woman doesn’t say anything.
He’s shoving his body. Against her. Her back is
knocked back. Popsicle freezer. Adjusting the
pressure of his hips. When his arm moves. To strike
her. She has this sinking feeling. She is on screen. So
when the man’s palm rips. Across the side of her
head. It was only the climax. Of an awesome film.
She is slumping. Onto the floor. As he kicks her.
Wiggling trunk. Yes, she doesn’t say anything.
A crowd of customers gather. Around them,
No one makes any move. To stop. What is
Vanessa Saunders is an MFA candidate at LSU and editor-in-chief of Helium Journal. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Poor Claudia, Entropy, Requited, and Stockholm Literary Review, among others.