Breath & Shadow
Volume 18, Issue 4
"After Watching the Skeleton Twins Together"
let me explain:
it’s like eating frozen meals
zapped so hot that you could
lick the salt off the steam.
Pristine chicken nuggets
with a frosty sheen—
so quick, and all so much
simpler than defrosting
this week’s meat, a pan
on medium-high, seasoning
and oil, slicing off the fat
with squared knuckles to guard
and hands that don’t shake.
"Cheering For the Dinosaurs"
Jennifer Lee Rossman
I always cheered for the dinosaurs.
It probably concerned my parents, but they were the ones who thought Jurassic Park was an appropriate movie for a five-year-old in the first place.
We had the VHS, and I'm not sure how I didn't wear it out because I would watch it till the end, rewind it, and watch it again, multiple times a day. All the while cheering for the dinosaurs.
I don't think I really wanted anyone to get killed, although it was kind of funny when the lawyer got eaten on the toilet. I just really loved dinosaurs and wanted them to be happy, and if that meant they had to eat people, so be it.
"Children of the Sixth Mass Extinction"
When I was a child, I wished for a world without suffering. Or, if not that, then a world without humans.
I wasn’t forgiving or understanding of the complexities of my mentally developed but emotionally stunted species. Instead I felt a deep connection with the natural world around me. Maybe I was born a Buddhist, because even the thought of harming insects accidentally leaves me guilt-stricken and depressed.
I love to drive, but driving down a highway is excruciating. I count the bodies of deer, turtle, possum, raccoon, dogs, cats, and many others broken open on the side of the road, some fresh and splattered red and some just splintered bone with blackened flesh around it, in the process of fading to nothing. It’s a guarantee that I’ll see at least three before my drive has ended. The numbers aren’t good.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, we lose dozens of species a day. The fragmented land and danger from the roadways is only one minor cause, but it’s a daily reminder.
"Dancing Along Fence Lines"
I’ll bet you never thought you’d feel that old at 20, even though you lived in a war zone that made all young men and women feel old. You couldn’t know you’d still be alive fifty-three years later, prosper, experience love, heartbreak, depression, crazy joy, success and abject failure – you know, all the things a full life throws at you. Because, while you lay shaken and face-up on a concrete floor with your spine losing all feeling, all you could imagine was darkness and despair
"How 'The Witches' Affected People with Limb Differences"
People with visible disabilities often struggle with self-esteem. As children, they are frequently teased and bullied about their handicaps. The visibly disabled have basic problems of identity and identification as they rarely see people who look like them in the mainstream media. Journalist Cara Buckley reports that a study found that “less than 2 percent of characters with speaking parts in top movies from 2018 were disabled.”
"Leo’s Bite" and "Roar"
Enduring illness made me forget you,
as one might forget magenta.
Then I recalled your shoulder
undulating under sun
that seldom warms
my joints and indoor skin.
Storm huntress of blue
wildebeest and zebra, serene as baobab,
you held a dappled lion cub in your jaw.
I—childless—envied your wild motherhood:
the cub’s mouth searching
for your dark teat, and warmth.
"On Golden Sands"
The mermaid washed ashore on a Sunday. Bridget was only aware of this because she had the time to comb the beach at all, as she had the day before. She might have assumed that she would have been excited about such a discovery, but in the situation’s reality a sort of businesslike efficiency took over. She lifted the creature from the shore, laid it over her lap, and wheeled her special beach chair off towards the house with what amounted to a perfectly calm speed.
"On Her Disability"
A young girl is left weak on her left side after an AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation) is found in her brain. At seven months old, she doesn’t know what’s going on. She can’t know why her arm twitches or why her parents look concerned whenever she clutches her arm to her chest. After the surgery that successfully removed the group of blood vessels from her head, she doesn’t yet know that her hand will be permanently altered and she will walk with a limp, the walking on her toes is just a phase.
At age one, she’s on TV, Good Morning America, but she won’t remember it nor care at the time. She walks around the stage, amazed by a pen, and waddles toward the audience to show them her amazing discovery. Her doctor sits by her parents and continues the interview, explaining the medical procedure that was done first on the girl toddling across the set, a technology that would go on to save thousands of kids. The girl doesn’t yet know that she was the first to get the procedure, and that whatever happened, there was always a possibility of death.
C. A. Francis
People stare, then weep.
Gently, they place their hands on me,
I absorb their sorrow.
I remember them…
their boredom, laughter, and love.
Fright, terror, anger.
"The Meaning of Silence"
Hospitals smell like disinfectant and sadness. They’re all the things you aren’t. I jump up on your bed, too impatient to see you. I like pushing my face close to yours. I like seeing into your eyes. I like knowing that you know what I want to say without even having to say it.
You make a ‘mph’ noise of discomfort, but your eyes are bright even if your face isn’t. Your hand comes up like always and presses to my cheek. The bedsheets are scratchy. The wires are uncomfortable. I sleep curled against you.
When I wake, mum is pulling me away. I don’t want to leave, but I’m groggy. My bones feel numb, as if I’ve been given one of those wire-tubes right into my vein like you. Only instead of medicine I’ve been filled with cotton fluff.