Breath & Shadow
Volume 19, Issue 1
"A Ward Against the Graeae" and "From The Drowned"
In this silenced city fraught with spring. Lock your door against them,
the three Gray Sisters: Anxiety, Trauma, Panic— snake-faced, blinded by secrets,
bereft of childhood. Hair coiling like tendrils of smog, they beckon.
Practice safe distancing. Keep six feet away from your tormenting memories.
Draw a pentagram on your walls for protection. Invoke absent angels, and the
that always fail you. Wash your hands until your cracked lifeline bleeds.
"Abolition of Touch"
For the Ox, the Rocks, & the Tree
For Me & Mine
For You & Yours
We share breath & shadow. Temperature, pain & pressure.
Yet, we count as dumb the mute, the deaf, the blind.
Label as senseless what we think can’t communicate like we do
by tongue, hand, ear, eye, facial expression, lip & tooth. Voice box.
Content Warning: Suicide
“Promise me you won’t do it again.” Jess bites her lip, tapping her leg against the table.
It breaks my heart to see her like that, her face pale and her eyes red and puffy from crying and lack of sleep. But I can’t give her the answer she wants. So instead, I say nothing. Look down at my hands and wish this conversation wasn’t happening.
It was never supposed to be like this. There wasn’t supposed to be an ‘after’. Just a before, and then nothing. Trust me to fuck even this up.
The world felt changed. The fare on TV looked the same, but wasn’t. Grocery shelves were as well-stocked and colorful as ever, but, with what exactly, wasn’t as clear. Reports from Greenland foretold the future, as usual. Before, I had ignored them. Today, I was unmoored. A friend, a former D-1 scholarship athlete, confided he had stopped exercising, while my mother, who is sixty-three, enrolled in not one, but three Pilates classes. The elevator opened and I stepped from this liminal haze into face-to-face confrontation with the chairman of the board.
My name is Grom, and I'm about to do the most dangerous thing I've done in my life. If you ask my friends, it's the bravest thing any goblin has ever done. If you ask my family, it's also the stupidest.
I'm going to go talk to the Lich King.
See, for as long as anyone can remember, the goblins and the undead have both lived in the desolate places of the world. In our case, the outsiders call it a dungeon. Based on some books my friends found, dungeons are supposed to be places where people are imprisoned. We're not imprisoned, and neither are the outsiders who come in here. Well, there was that one guy who fell into a trap, his companions abandoned him, and we locked him in a cage until he died.
Susan Eve Haar
“Die! Die! Die!” Her father is leaning his head out the car window, the tepid Miami air blowing in his face. He’s shouting at a child, a girl of perhaps eleven, who looks mildly surprised. Clutching the edge of the glass, he cranes his head back, watching the girl disappear, then falls back to the seat, his face flushed with pleasure.
The old Toyota stinks of urine; the dark blue upholstery is stained. She cranks the window open. It looks all right, like a normal car, except for the handicapped sign that dangles off the mirror. What a privilege that is, like a Get Out of Jail Free card, useful for so many things.
"The Body As Disposable"
And so, in some rivers, the great salmon run–scaly bodies returning from the ocean to gravel beds to mate and lay eggs, after which they will die. But the rivers don’t teem with wild salmon the way they used to, their numbers dwindling from overharvesting and habitat destruction, in the rivers and the oceans. It’s not that there aren’t any wild salmon anymore, it’s that our greed and complacency as humans has made them nearly exotic. This is, please understand, not a metaphor.
On a FaceTime date with O., nearly a year ago now, she tells me about the research she has started to do while revising her grad school thesis, and how it has been shown that mere exposure to people who are different from us can lead to increased levels of acceptance of these people and these differences. “Just think how applicable this is to right now,” she tells me excitedly, in reference to the shelter in place orders and work being moved to remote in lieu of the pandemic. “The sheltering in place is going to lead to less exposure of diverse people, which will then in turn impact people’s perceptions and acceptance of them.”
"The Tulips Come Back"
Ten years before my Dad died from Alzheimer’s disease, he took up deer watching from the deck attached to his house. He’d already stopped hunting a few years prior, joint pain preventing him from enduring the cold autumns of Ulster County. Neither of my older sisters ate venison, while me and my younger sister loved it. What I now understand was our young minds trying to come to terms with the incongruity of accepting our Dad’s farmhand pragmatism with what we knew of him, was troubling, even shocking. Our Father, gasp, shot a defenseless animal, and then, double-gasp, sliced it up and ate it. What savagery lay in his soul.
"Through The Dark"
Stella Peg Carruthers
A couple of months ago I went to work on a Saturday (you know, when working on site was still a Thing.) It was a fill in shift. The pace of questions about books and patrons needing directions to the loos was unbearably slow. Rain hit the window as a dim background beat. The day was a blue kind of cold. The sort that reaches inside you, so it feels like your very bones are shivering.
To entertain myself I went on Facebook. I’m a millennial after all so boredom equals social media lurking. What was not boring was an article link posted by a colleague
Photographed in the tab image, all blonde cherubic curls, blue-sky-eyes and high cat-like cheek bones, was American actress Kirsten Dunst. You know her as the child actor who kissed Brad Pitt when he played a vampire back in the mid 1990’s. She was seven and the envy of the female populace at the time.
It is a perfect day. Grasses of emerald and gold brush the ankles of my children as they run through our backyard, their laughter crystalline beneath an azure sky. My wife gives me a suffering look, but her mouth twitches up at the corners in a smile I can only return.
“Momma,” one of my children calls, racing up to me. “Play with us!” Ze reaches out a hand, a warm brown blend of my black and my wife’s white. But I shake my head, and it feels almost like a tremor in the air, a hesitation in the melody of what I see.
“Momma’s tired today,” I say, not looking at my newly crippled legs, not thinking of that which I should not think of.
Ze runs back, squeals when my wife tickles zer. My heart swells and my shoulders relax again. I breathe in the fresh scents of fall, of life, of family.