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Other notable work by Caroline Samples.
And it was as if, pushing so close to the current,
a rush of humility overtook me, a rush like flying
in human dreams: flying through a grate in a sidewalk, or
flying naked between tree branches with no wings, no
fins, no arms, through the earth, bulleting.
Up the falls, up the falls—and I suddenly understood
the phyllo of existence, how seeking different shelters
protects us all from a tornadoing, mad descent.
I’ve searched from creek to river, swim with little control,
no scales I am fully aware of, or how they shine
for the eye. You see, there is no direction I am mapping,
only one from a water greater than myself.
And I do this in order to live on,
move swiftly over the undercurrent knowing nothing
else breeds another day like all the new lives
swept into nature’s traffic.
Today, I am a salmon. Tomorrow, perhaps,
a more commanding white light.
We are serving you dead,
the country of your body.
We’ve been here all your life,
the inevitable army so close—
a skin, a history repeating.
What has been keeping you
alive, ignoring the terror,
while all of us slowly slough off?
How is it you haven’t noticed
until now, the peel of the sun-work,
the wintertime abundance of dryness
in front of the TV: more dead,
Such a trivial thing, the lost flesh,
unimportant death after unimportant death—
until it’s your loss.
You, who are so selfish,
without seeing what it truly is:
shedding against the second.
It’s a good thing we go on like this
forever—loyal soldiers awaiting unmarked graves
in the night. We’ll keep emerging
from the trenches, from the base of wrinkles,
with no blood vessels,
like war toys, traveling dust.
There you are, walking down the street.
Shifting against a long row of planted pines,
light pushes around peeling bark.
One of the many eyelids in the sky slowly winks
and covers briefly
the bright red pupil’s driving glare.
I’d say Spring increases travel,
all the weary bees, a clash of errands plays
sharp sound against sharp sound:
cawing children perched on benches,
screeching brakes from passing Buicks,
knocking heels fading on concrete,
and the ever-squawking
doors of city buses.
All the music holds here,
and somehow, I see.
You check your wristwatch. Grab a coffee,
find vacant things to do, things to do.
The buds on the hyacinth, belly-up,
refuse to notice you—
fattening on their own time,
swelling into a life of wait.
Keep your sight on your feet, the cracks
a part of me,
all the varied widths, varied widths,
short steps and long,
and bustle towards the sky .
What troubles me is the beginning of the end.
The garden’s soft flowerheads haunt me, nod in the wind,
their slow bobs of silence summon the spirit of poppies.
They sleep. And my fluorescent night-scares flutter
like moths trapped between skyscrapers.
What troubles me first: basic sleepless concerns.
It starts with the present, with all the glinting lights
to be attracted to, winged fears find no warmth, no glowing
white sheets, no soothing stop, they swarm the city-side in neurotic
zig-zags, fly in skitters without landing on any kind of heat-heart,
any sort of strobing calm, electric green.
What troubles me next: the way I’m suddenly in the past.
I’ve followed the mind’s chaotic highway all night
circling away from bed and back.
The bright blue tap-water: illuminated drops from the faucet—
reflecting my lost ones, their shadows walking the walls.
What troubles me most: the future. Tilling the unknown.
The pale-blue skies always become the morning’s eye stains.
My pale-new thoughts are still the sharp-whittled buildings.
These pale-pale words split the wide city, and my pale-hued stems
stiffen in the day’s first rain with the question of later weather.
How generous of you, creating voices for all things, unveiling
what is noshed under flesh and earth: the ever-silent singing
one dark melody here, the same dark melody there, O dying.
But why should I, unimportant organ of your body, speak
so unnaturally? Surprises you. How an elusive blood ravine
tucked out of sight somewhere between stomach and diaphragm,
like the soul between hands and paper, tussles over the gift of language.
Whether or not you choose to hear, I am not silent.
I never have been. I’ve been fighting infections of the mind, body,
and of the spirit— white-pulped, today and the next, thriving,
pulsing for a final art, O dying, O dying— lasting art.
What a curse bestowed upon me, this never-ending rapture of death.
Transferring life one cell at a time, and you moving one word at a time,
I and you, tallying long nights throughout the days,
two blackbirds peering up, bleak in tall grass.
CHRISTINA MATTHEWS currently resides in Macon, Georgia, by way of Syracuse, New York. She teaches English Composition and Creative Writing courses at a local university. Her work has previously been published in numerous literary journals and magazines. Her most recent work has been published in The Adirondak Review and The Houston Literary Review.
“Nature likes to hide itself.”
The world is paved in gravel. All homogenized, all
meeting a certain grade requirement. When water sinks
and settles so thinly, what comes of it?
Violets root where they can, sprout from cracks between rocks.
Purple as shadows, purple as sunken throats. How strange
that they flourish in crevices. Strange, how they tunnel to grow.
We tunnel, too. Our flower boxes
color the sills of barred windows in alleys.
Children dig through snow, pulling pinecones
and bits of broken bottles from the gutters of streets.
And at night, they think of how it would be
to burrow, like fleas, into the fibers of sheets. To stay,
pressed between body and bed; to hide in the ash of dead skin.
On the Atlantic
Two figures face each other on the gray beach.
I watch from the fifteenth floor balcony, and from here
they are elongated statues in thin primary colors.
They don’t move, but I can almost see the pull between them,
those soft striations reaching from one body to another.
I decide there’s something hopeful in the way they stay so still.
I sketch them in a notebook. After they leave and are replaced
by runners, by old women with dogs, or solitary surf walkers.
I will remember them. I will hold them up to the horizon
where they’ll bend and tremble in the wind. Only paper,
but when I return home, I’ll mount them on the wall by our bed.
Each night, when you pull your body far away from mine,
they’ll build sand castles against a bleached sky
and dance around. Colors melding and separating.
Blush and blue, to watery purple and back.
Each morning, they’ll stand a bit closer together on the page,
until one day, only a horizontal stripe remains.
A purple tremor on the penciled horizon.
Washing Dishes at Night
My palms do not match. On the right hand
the life line and love line run parallel
as if Life is dancing against a mirror
and Love is its reflection.
But my left hand has only one line.
As if warning that I will never have love,
only movies alone,
a cold side of the bed.
Maybe two lines made life and love
so closely intertwined
that I will never have one
without the other. At night
my legs will tangle under sheets,
even in sleep, feeling for that other body.
Or maybe I will never have both
at the same time. Like so many
women before me, I will give up
myself for someone else.
For anyone else. Maybe my left hand
is telling me I will never
know when I stop living.
Caroline Samples is a Buffalo, New York native who currently resides in Macon, Georgia. She teaches at the nearby Fort Valley State University. Her recent work can be found in descant, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and Oak Bend Review.