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Mother Walked Into the Lake

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Mother walked into the lake. It was a round lake, with gray water that was always smooth, even during storms. Mother waited until the sky was charcoal. She waited until there was lightning. She stood at the back of the house, just inside the storm door, and she watched the lake. Her eyes were as gray as the water. In her pupils, the lake water frothed. Mother blinked slowly, her eyelids coming together as if in sleep, then spreading. Mother did everything delicately. She scrambled eggs by barely stirring the spoon. She birthed Sister, Brother, and I with the softest of whispers, the laziest of pushes. She slept without a sound or movement. Mother stood inside the back door. She looked out into the storm, then pushed the screen door open. The latch came undone in her hand. The door swung. The wind caught the door edge and pushed it, slamming the aluminum against the side of the house. The siding broke in several places, the wood interior exposed to the elements. Over time, those cracks would grow as the water got inside, then froze, then thawed. The wood beneath softened. Termites ate what was soggy…

Mother went out into the storm. She walked barefoot through the grass, following a small dirt path down to the lake, which had no fish or frogs or snakes. Sister, Brother, and I watched her from the window and although we called, Mother! Mother!, she walked without looking back. Mother went to the edge of the lake and touched the gray water with her toes. Mother looked like a ballerina, her left leg extended before her, her right leg planted upon the ground. She tested the water’s cold. She brought her left leg back to the grass, extended her right leg. She touched the water again, feeling the surface, dipping her foot in more. The water looked like concrete. We pressed our ears to the moist window glass. We wanted to hear Mother breathe. We thought the rasp of her lungs would be audible above the storm. Mother splashed in the lake. We heard her between breaks in the thunder. The lightning cracked above, splintering the sky into infinite black pieces. Mother looked up, then down. Mother looked into the lake. She stepped with her right foot, bringing it down like she did when walking through grass, but the lake was deep. It was a natural lake and the bottom was far away. When it was warm, Sister, Brother, and I were allowed to swim circles around the lake. There was no ground as far as we knew. We dove down to touch the mud but could never reach. The grass was a ledge with nothing beneath…

Mother fell into the lake. In the midst of the storm, Mother plunged. The lake splashed as Mother’s head disappeared. Mother sank down and down. She did not flail, she did not kick. Down and down she went, until she settled in the cold mud below. There, Mother sat in ooze and filth and green. Mother spat water from her mouth. She bubbled and gurgled. Sister, Brother, and I watched the lake from the window atop the house. We waited for Mother to splash back into the air, for her to swim ashore and pull herself onto the grass. We waited for Mother to spit gray water from her lungs. But Mother only sank. We saw the top of her head, then we did not. She did not come clambering out. We waited nearly an entire night before realizing. There was no Mother then. There was only a lake…

After Mother drowned in the lake, Father tried saving her. He ran through the downpour and slipped in the mud. He fell repeatedly in the grass, tumbling. His ankles snapped and sprained. Father limped to the edge of the lake. He threw himself upon his belly and plunged his arms into the water. He felt around, reaching for Mother’s hair, her hands. Sister, Brother, and I imagined Mother alive in that water, her toes pointed towards the lake bottom, arms extended overhead, fingers stretched, waiting to catch Father, hair streaming as a halo, eyes wide and blinking. Father flailed in the water. He reached and reached but could not touch the bottom. Father heaved himself over the edge, bobbed in the water, slipped down. He dove for Mother. He went down deep, combing the water for her. He struggled for a piece of her dress, a knot in her hair. All he needed was a handful of her. Father tried but Mother was too far away. Mother was part of the water now…

The house was lonely without Mother. We missed her. We were children and did not know how to cope with Mother’s loss. We—Sister, Brother, and I—walked the house together and remembered Mother. Mother baked delicious bread. Mother grilled perfect steak. Mother knew when to open the windows, when to close them. We never suffered nightmares when Mother was near. Mother could create a garden from a florist’s bouquet. Mother had a recipe for the most delicious chocolate chip cookies. Mother carved jack-o’-lanterns so that the faces were grotesque in candlelight. Mother stitched our names onto the tags of our clothing, then cut the tags so that we did not itch. Mother sewed large patchwork quilts she laid across our laps at night. Mother stoked the fireplace in the living room, then gave us pumpkin pie and hot chocolate. Mother made Father laugh, made us laugh louder. Mother took photographs of us laughing. Mother made homemade candy canes for Christmas. Mother stuffed the turkey on Thanksgiving. Mother dyed eggs in pastel colors and intricate patterns for Easter. Mother smelled of spun sugar and vanilla caramel. Mother smelled of fresh milk and grass. Mother smelled of lavender and honey. When Mother laughed, it was the tinkling of bells. Mother made us feel religion. When she pressed her wrists against our foreheads, we felt blessed. Mother told us stories about the moon and the sun and the stars, about the galaxy as a whole and what came before everything. Mother told us of cows floating across the moon, of little boys playing trumpets, of little girls followed about by baby sheep. She told us stories about a house very much like this one, a little house with a little family and a little lake, one in which everyone in the house always enjoyed one another’s company..

When we had dinner, Mother sat at one end of the table, Father sat at the other, and we three sat between. Mother served us all. Mother cut thick slices of pork and laid the meat across our plates. She gave us mashed potatoes and gravy. Mother watched us eat before she took a bite. Mother never needed to adjust her seasonings. When we could not sleep, Mother cradled us in our beds until our eyes closed. Sometimes Mother put pillows and blankets in the living room, then tacked a sheet from wall to wall so that the fabric floated above us. We liked those days the best and Mother sat in the tent with us, then went to bed with Father, leaving us in the living room to laugh and point at the sheet ceiling as if we were jabbing our fingers at the stars. Mother knew the names of all the constellations in the sky. During certain times of the year, when it was very hot or very cold, Mother woke us in the middle of the night and brought us outside to the lawn so that we could watch the meteors streak through the dark, their white tails flashing before they fell amongst the silhouettes of pine trees. When Mother drowned in the lake, we longed for those days. We were desperate for them. We cut our thumbs with butter knives and dripped the blood into the kitchen sink. We gave the blood to what might have the power to bring Mother back. We went to sleep, then woke, hoping Mother would be in the kitchen, flipping pancakes and pouring drawn butter. But the kitchen was empty and the stove was cold. There was only our blood spatter at the bottom of the sink, rust-colored against the stainless steel…

Sister and Brother did not remember but I did. Once, long before the storm and the lake, I found Mother asleep. She slept so soundly, I did not want to wake her, but I had to, we needed her. I shook her arm and her shoulder and her hip. Mother did not move. Mother did not wake. I shoved her again and again and each time, Mother seemed farther away. I shouted her name. I said: Wake up, Mother! Wake up! She did not. Mother slept on and on. I went to Father. I said: Mother will not wake. I followed him to her. Father walked fast. He closed the door before I could step into the room. From the other side of the door, I heard everything. The floorboards squeaked, the bed creaked. Father shouted for Mother, he whispered. Father was inside the bedroom for such a long time and I sat upon the hallway floor, my head leaned back against the door. I could not leave, I was afraid to. When the bedroom opened, I nearly fell. Mother and Father stood together, their shadows covering me. They looked so tall. Their faces were black against the light. Mother staggered as Father pulled her past me and to the bathroom. She did not look back. When she spoke, her voice was like water. I forgot this, then remembered. More than anything, I wished to forget again…

I sometimes found Mother hiding. She lay in corners and beneath the bed. It was difficult to see but I always found her. Mother cried. Mother held onto herself as if she might fall from the house or the world. Mother cried and I could not stop her. I tried. I slid into the hiding place with her and held her. Mother cried onto me. Her tears burned. I itched afterward, the sort of itch a person might suffer after soaking in salt water. I was covered with Mother’s tears and they smelled like nothing whenever I put my nose to them. When I slept, I heard Mother cry. She cried within and outside my dreams. Her crying made me uneasy and I could not sleep. I told Father of Mother’s crying, then did not hear her sobs again. The house was quiet then yet I worried for Mother. I heard a sniffle, a sigh. I heard what might have been the start of a sob that was then repressed and swallowed. I felt guilty. I thought perhaps Mother liked the crying and it was my fault she stopped. I worried of what might happen if Mother never cried again. Later, Mother walked into the lake and drowned. I wondered if she might be weeping deep beneath the water…

Sister, Brother, and I did not believe Mother was really gone. We looked for her everywhere. We thought we might find her buried in the walls but there were no holes in which to search. We searched the attic, the planks between the wood, the space behind the beams. We looked in the basement, at the joints between the pipes, the breaks in the stone walls, the cracks around the windows. We looked beneath the dripping sink, the dusty dining room table, the dark of the living room couch. We opened the front door and stared at the dying lawn. We went to the back door and looked towards the lake. We checked all the upstairs windows. We tapped on the stairs in the hopes she might tap back. But Mother was nowhere. We walked to the lake into which Mother drowned. We looked into that strange water. We looked for Mother hovering at the bottom, her toes barely touching the silt, her hair radiating outward. We thought we saw her shadow. We thought the shadow was to the left, then to the right, then just beneath the bank on which we sat. We stirred the water with our fingers. We plunged our hands in to the wrists, then the elbows. As we moved our hands around, we became terrorized by the thought that Mother was right there, her body just beyond, and if she wanted, she could pull us in. We took our hands out of the water. We looked around the yard, stared at the trees bordering the far ends, the house at the top of the hill, the stretch of lawn that went past the lake but was never walked upon. We looked into the water again. We reached once more. We reached more and more, first to our elbows, then to our shoulders. We leaned and wet our faces. We did not touch Mother. She did not touch us. We sat at the edge of the lake. We waited for Mother’s head to break the surface. The lake was still. We put our feet in the water and kicked…

That night, we could not sleep. We suffered terrible dreams of Mother clawing her way up from the lake, her body green with algae, wet hair dripping in her face. She stood in every doorway and poured water onto the floor. First, she poured cups of water, tipping a glass horizontally so that it spilled, but then she dropped the glass. The water came from her. It poured from her ears and her eyes and her nose and her mouth. Mother seemed to choke upon that water. She opened her mouth wide so that it could pour over her bottom teeth and lip. Mother let all that drowning out. The water puddled beneath her feet. It streamed down her legs. It came from her throat and her stomach and her hips. The water smelled of the lake. It pooled upon the floor, flooded the wood, came streaming towards us. Sister, Brother, and I huddled together on my bed. We clung to one another as the bed rocked from side to side. It pitched against the walls, floated upon the water. The bed bucked us but we held on, our fingers clutching at the fitted bed sheet. The water rose, as did the bed. Soon, our heads bumped the ceiling. Mother stayed in the doorway, dripping and splashing, and the water went over her head while she burbled. We looked over the edges of the bed, watched for her. In that stinking gray water, Mother poured herself out and all we could see was her shadow…

Copyright 2017. Alana I. Capria. All Rights Reserved.

Wrapped in Red

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wrapped-in-red-alana-i-capria/1120722068
https://www.amazon.com/Wrapped-Red-Alana-I-Capria/dp/194023316X

[Shall I be a Lilith woman?] I suffer from the ribbed cyst. So the Lilith woman tempts me. She brings me into the heat and leaves me to my burning fate. But this is better than what it once was. Once upon a time, a man thought he owned me and so he laid me across a bamboo cutting block and carved the rib from my chest. He cloned the bone and gave me back both pieces. This made it so that I had an extra piece of rib jutting from my breast. It was uncomfortable to walk and the jutting ribs made me think of barbecue sauce daily. That and pickled vegetables. [Let me sprout wings and see if the man can chain me down,] I said. I knew no angel that had wings like mine. I cut through stone and ice. I left the slivers for the man to find. He bleeds bright red so I know where to find him. But my blood is copper. I used to think it was blue. Someone told me about the azure veins and I believed them. They were wrong. The blood was a burnt gold. Men came from the farthest reaches of the world to beg me for a droplet. I gave them nothing, not a flake nor a scab. If they want to reach immortality, they need to sacrifice a finger, or a toenail. [Straight into the cannibal moon’s gaping mouth, I marveled.] I cover my eyes in mock horror. [Goodbye, extra digits. Meet my ribs and sire one another,] I said to him. While he fingered my rib, I took up an ax because the woman told me so. She said to cut him, so I did. There are snake vines over me. They grow iron wings and slither across my thighs. [Shall you be a part of us,] they ask and I pull my face off. Beneath my chin is a mask. It is not like any other mask. [No, I do not carry the latex covering with me. I keep the plastic to myself. I hold onto the real flesh,] I tell the snakes. Hearing this the man crawls out of the garden and offers me his hand. [Shall I take those fingers,] he asks. They are slick with dirt. I stare at the nails and see worms wriggle up from the enamel bed. I push the man back. [You really should love me,] the man says. Shall I love the man? I wonder. Or should I let him go free? Let him wander through the desert until he reaches the ocean at the other end of this land. Lilith whispers in my ear. She says that I should give him a drink of water, then use him as a willing sacrifice. She says that his name belongs on the chamber doors, that his letters are etched across the bottom of the tree trunk. It was he who carved them there. [Adam, oh my Adam,] I sing, reading the letters slowly and I beat him with a branch from the very same tree. There were demons in the closets but now they sit on my bed with their heads in their hands. They watch me as I slide past. They give me apple slices. I dip each piece of the fruit into lemon butter. [I am hungry,] I say. [Eat the man,] they say. Lilith whispers into my ear, [The man will taste like roasted beef.] She gives me the knife. I chew what parts of him I can get my teeth through. He tastes more like raw veal than roasted beef. If there is another woman I will chain her down. I will chain the Eve. Then I will chain Persephone. Then the other queens who strip their bones of meat and leave their marrow naked. I pity the calcium. It begs to be covered. I find Eve on the dining room table, legs open. [I am his wife now,] she says and points at the framed photograph of my Adam. [You are nothing but fermented meat,] I hiss at her. I eat Adam’s image, glass and all. My tongue rips. My teeth crack. If I am not the one who denied the fruit, am I the one that plucked it? Was it even an apple? Or is it just a red fruit? A quince? Or a pomegranate? Some red bulbous food built around mortality. That is why Lilith stayed alive. She didn’t burden herself with death. She let the husband and wife fight over the seeds and dig their own graves with the cores. [After you decapitate her, put her head into the refrigerator,] Lilith whispers as I place Eve’s head into the freezer. She is an Eve cube. The first wife Popsicle. A wifesicle. I let her thaw until she is soft and pudgy, then I freeze her again. Lilith claps her hands gleefully. She thinks the whole silly affair is a hoot. [There are men waiting for you,] she says and points at the walls. The plaster is lined with rows of holes filled with jutting genitals. Their mouths chew the paint. I drink a shot glass of liquid soap and foam covers my tongue. Lilith lays me down. She braids my hair into snake skins. With her eyes closed, she gives me a handful of teeth. [Plant them and they will become men,] she says. I do and they do. [If I am not the first woman, I will not settle for the second,] I announce to anyone who will listen. I sit on the fruit branch of the apple tree and allow the Adam man to eat the fruit from between my legs. There was not a tree. There was never a tree. Instead, the truth is that the woman (I) spread her thighs and revealed the branches extending from her womb (mine). The man, Adam, pulled the fruits off my vines. They tasted like bitter strawberries. Their mouthfeel was like overly ripe cherries. His mouth turned bright red. There are many other bushes outside. In pretending to be the tree, I tuck the leaves inside of me. The man walks up to me on his knees. He licks my kneecaps. There are citrus fruits inside the bones. His teeth rot the longer he waits to gargle. Lilith gave the first man and the second woman a basket of the most delicious vegetation. There were foot carrots and hand limes and many genital grapes. Lilith urged them to eat. The woman pretended to devour a fingerling potato but let it drop past her lips instead. The first man and the second woman didn’t eat and instead turned into bone. I turned into bone. Now I sit alone in the back of my closet and place my head in a garment bag crying. Lilith pulls the fabric out of my mouth. [You are meant to feed the wicked,] she says and offers me a silver platter of fruits. The fruits look like tiny severed heads. [You won’t find any preachers here,] she says and kisses my shoulder. She peels one green fruit and reveals the black-speckled meat inside. The core reflects her face. She winks and grins and files her nails on her chin. [It is better than nothing,] she confides to me. I raise fruits in the kitchen cabinets. When they ripen, they splatter me in the face. Their juice burns. It is too acidic. Then my thighs itch. I sit in the sink and Lilith washes me. She soaps my shoulders with baking soda and adds a layer of all-purpose flour. [We did not bake in the garden,] she says and I drink chocolate directly from a bottle. [There was no chocolate, either,] she says. She has told me stories about the garden before. She mentioned the enviable fruits and all the trees that were like living skyscrapers, each towering in the sky. The branches were made of glass. When Lilith glared, the glass shattered and cut the Adam man’s upper lip. Then she smiled and all the glass grew again. [What if the trees had been mirrors?] I ask as Lilith eats a pineapple, thorns and all. [We had no need for mirrors,] she says. [We weren’t supposed to know we were naked.] She shows me the spot under her ribs where her extra breast sprouted from. The breast is so small, I can barely see it. The mammary gland is more like a birth mark, a strange little mole. I poke the nipple and Lilith shivers with excitement. [You don’t understand,] she says as she opens every door in the house. [I can’t breathe when you do that,] she says as she lets the air in. She lets Adam in. He sits in a corner, crying. His eyes are bruised. We force his swollen lids open. There are fruit peels shoved into the gray sides of his cheeks. No wonder he is crying. It isn’t only a rib that Lilith has a spare of. She also has an extra eye, an extra teat, and a third leg. She milks both her teat and her extra leg in the kitchen sink. I collect the droplets. Her milk is thick and bright yellow. It is amber. Honey colored. Rotten. It is liquid cheese. It smells of chlorine. I drink a glass and vomit. Lilith paints her face bright red with her mixture of pigments and fats. She rubs her fists against the walls and leaves furrows in the plaster. [Was this how you left Eden?] I ask and Lilith shows me photographs of the forbidden tree. It is really a shrub. A tiny bush. With branches covered with thorns. Lilith’s name is written across the roots. I take a razor blade to the photograph and scrape along the outer lines of the letters. [Once upon a time,] Lilith says. [I knew a man who thought he was more than just mud. We were born simultaneously, sprouted from the same dirt clot. But the man said he was metal and I was leaves. So he tried tearing me apart. I threw water in his face and he ran off like liquid. And that was the end of the garden. It flooded with his organs and I flew away before the fluid could touch me. Once upon a time, I found a hidden garden and climbed inside. The dirt was pale gray and dotted with brilliant red flowers. I plucked the petals and every bloom had a nectar head at the center. They oozed sweet honey.] Lilith digs the pollen out of the corners of her eyes and smears the yellow across the stove top. She pulls at the spinal cords from her neck. [But I found a woman in her coffin,] Lilith explains. She digs her nails into her wrists and shifts her eyes upwards. [Were you in the garden, too?] I ask and Lilith sticks her hands into the dirt. [I should have known that the man would steal from me,] she says. She lifts the thin fabric covering her stomach to reveal the jagged scar covering her upper torso. [Deep inside there was a rib,] she says and parts the scar. She fishes around and hands me a tiny sliver of bone. Later, I plant this bone and wait outside for it to sprout. The tree that emerges from the marrow is a pale mucus color. It wavers with the breeze. The branches bend with the fruits’ weight. When the fruits fall, they shatter upon striking the ground. They are a pomegranate-quince hybrid, just like the ones on the first tree. The seeds are a brilliant orange. I pluck the seeds out of the meat and place them on my tongue. They burst and it is like drinking ten gallons of juice. My tongue tingles. [Did you even think to save some for me?] Lilith asks me. She eats the root ends and throws the edible parts at me. I dress them with thick oil and sliced garlic. Lilith opens her mouth. Her teeth are pointed. She pulls the Adam man out of the tree trunk and sinks her teeth into his neck. [I got tired of the fruit when I was in the garden,] she says and drinks from him. Lilith craves steak and so I always remember to keep the refrigerator stocked with beef. There are two Liliths and I do not know which one to side with. Both pull my arms and demand to be fed. [But I cannot give you any more meat than I have. One of you will have to settle on soup,] I say and the Liliths hiss and gnash their teeth. They both want steaks. But I cannot afford to give them enough muscle to settle their carnivorous appetite. The Adam man comes into the world and the women glare at him. They grab his shoulders. [He is my husband,] the first Lilith says. [No, he is mine,] the second Lilith says. They thumb wrestle and breathe fire at each other. The man ducks his head. He grunts and makes terrified squealing sounds. [You are not a pig,] the women shout and the Adam man crawls beneath the carpet. Secretly I roll fruits to him under the floorboards. [If you press them hard enough, you can bring about a compressed fermentation,] I whisper into the carpet fibers. The Adam man chews the hard melon rinds. [I would like to eat some chicken,] he says and I throw raw poultry at his face. He chews slowly and his lips hang past his chin. [I cannot digest all this protein,] he says. He throws the congealed fat away and sobs into the metal floor nails. The women grapple with the remains of the chicken that he did not eat. They steal bites from one another. The first Lilith pulls my hair. [I’m the one who told you about Eden], she says. [The other one is not to be trusted with Adam. She will seduce him away.] The second Lilith watches the first from the corner of her eyes and whispers to me: [I can bring you to the garden.] And so the second Lilith brings me to the holy garden. The dirt smells acidic. I kick at the many mud mounds and they collapse into ash. The second Lilith slithers up and down a tree. [Isn’t it beautiful here,] she says and pulls my hand. I follow her around the garden borders. She hands me metal bushes and a cotton-fiber tree. Every fruit I see is bruised and seeping juice. I keep my arms at my sides, afraid to touch anything. The flowers all have teeth. Their petals brush against my legs and bite into my thighs. In the garden I bleed slowly. This imposter Lilith sits on her branch and giggles as my pants turn bright red from all the flower bites. [Now that is a pity,] she says looking at my pants. The plant roots turn a dark green from my dripping blood. They twine around themselves as they reach towards my wound. [I’m not here to feed you,] I say. The second Lilith climbs onto my shoulders. She leans close to my mouth and says, [But they are relying on you for a food source.] She nips the side of my ear. [That is my mortal, and mine alone,] the first Lilith says, bursting out of a tree trunk. She knocks the second Lilith down and pushes her face into the earth. The second Lilith’s face turns to stone. The first Lilith strikes the forehead three times and leaves a crack. The second Lilith’s stone face breaks along the fault line and cracks apart. [Paradise isn’t meant for everyone, especially not you,] the remaining Lilith says. [It’s far too dirty.] The garden grows up into my window pane. Lilith feeds the weeds from her sliced thumb. Her stomach is still distended from devouring her twin. Adam sits in the kitchen counter, combing his short hair with his fingers. He whimpers and gnaws on the copper pipes. [If we exchange blood one night,] Lilith says to me. [You will develop my disease, but we will be one.] She shows me her black hair and pale white eyes. [I am a dying woman,] she says sadly. She pushes her hands through her throat and removes a bushel of ripe red fruits. She hands me two and keeps the rest for herself. [I’m so tired,] she says. [It is the man. His very presence makes my muscles weak. You can’t imagine what we’ve been through.] She opens the closet and yanks him out of his hiding spot. He curls up in her fist. Lilith cuts his sides open and takes out a pair of his ribs. He doesn’t flinch. She swallows the tiny bones. The curving parts jut out against her throat. [He stole these from me when we were younger. I was newly created. I was more liquid than solid. I was more mud than flesh. And he stole my ribs and ate them. But now I have them back. He was never meant to conquer me,] she says. She puts Adam in the sink and washes him of her gold bile. He falls asleep in her fist. Lilith turns to me. [You shouldn’t be so ready to go to the garden,] she says. [It is nicer here. You have everything you need. The garden is too… fleshy,] she says. She vomits up a small rib and hands it to me to eat…

Copyright 2014. Alana I. Capria. All Rights Reserved.

Hooks and Slaughterhouse

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hooks-and-slaughterhouse-alana-i-capria/1117505917
https://www.amazon.com/Hooks-Slaughterhouse-Alana-I-Capria/dp/0982280955

once upon a
hollowed out moon, my liver withers. i touch the meat and it crumbles beneath my fingertips. dust clings to my skin, black fragments chipped and falling. my finger shoves past my lips and enters my throat. bitter powder falls onto my tongue. my tonsils numb. in the dark of my mouth, shadowed by opaque saliva curtains, my finger spreads into a hand, then opens. meat covers everything. i pry the flesh fragments apart. past the meat, propped against a rancid tree foaming around the branches, is a pair of broken owl eyes. glass shards come out of the colored lenses and make a [tinkle] sound when hitting the ground. i wrap old meat around my hips until a skirt drapes across the floor. thin fat pieces, so thin that the individual fibers snap apart and form tiny hollows, resemble lace texture. i place my fingers in the lace and spread my fingers apart, opening the holes. i arrange the skirt around my knees until it is hard to walk. then i do. i walk across a leaf-strewn lawn and my toes ache as the hard ground pushes against them. my breasts burn. i place my hands over my breasts and press against the nipples. sharp pain shoots down my back and into my hips. i pause near a drying oak tree and vomit blood over the base. rancid tar fluid coats the bark and runs to the ground, wetting the dirt until mud puddles suck the roots down. [you are pregnant, the moon whispers] and reaches down to rub the sides of my face. i raise my arms and scratch the moon’s face until long blood clot threads rise to the craggy surface. [pregnant with what, i ask.] the moon opens its skeletal mouth and vomits over my head. meaty fluid drains off the moon’s tongue. i spit out the red bits that cling to my lips. the moon licks its rocky lips clean and spits the last of the fluid onto the dirt. [with this and that, the moon whispers. dead children. broken tree bits. all those things. the livers and kidneys and kumquat peels. if you breathe deeply enough, you’ll smell the pomegranate seeds.] i touch my stomach. i press against my bowels. [but i am infertile, i say.] the moon laughs. it swats several stars away from its face and smacks its teeth together. [too adorable, the moon whispers. yes, infertile. but not your skin. pores have no need for ovaries.] the moon jumps slightly and rocks away, white bulb swaying from left to right until clear. i sit on the floor, festering in the vomit and mud. i cake the mud on my thighs and stack it until it is a tiny mountain of anatomical sludge. my stomach growls. i lean forward and lick the mud off my legs. my vision turns blue, then a faint pinkish red. i curl up in the mud and sink into the earth several feet. [the bloodless girl’s burial, a dry voice whispers.] i squeeze my eyes shut. dirt rushes up my nose. i move the dirt away from my mouth and raise my head slightly. [is anyone there, i ask.] my fingers slip in the mud and i fall deeper into the hole. [go back to sleep, the voice says.] i claw the mud sides and pull myself over. i roll onto dry grass. [what did you say, i ask. what did you call me?] several metal flowers slither to my feet. they tap against my ankles until clear fluid drips out of me. the moisture fills the mud puddle hole. i lift one flower. it wilts. [who are you, i ask.] [you are the bloodless girl, a rusted tulip petal says and scrapes.]

how the bloodless
state begins::: first, i cut my wrists in half and black tar pours out. but it does not pour forever. at the end, it drips and changes to a deep yellow shade. yellow amber covers the floor. orange fumes waft away from the fluid and the fumes stink of fresh orange mixed with raw meat. [everything smells like meat, i say] but the tree limbs do not acknowledge the observation. they press against my skin. they tear my wrists into pieces. chunks drop to the floor. then the yellow is clear and the more i touch the clear fluid with my fingernails, the harder it is for me to cover my eyes. the clear fluid is like water. but it is not like water because it smells like melted candle wax. i bite my nails. i spit the enamel on the floor. i press my hands against my thighs and the fluid flows down my skin, soaking everything, until my flesh is squishy like the meat of a sea sponge. i bury myself in a rock bed. i stack chunks of granite around my body, curving the stones until they curve over my head. the clear fluid fills the space. it pushes through tiny gaps in the rocks. but the clear fluid dries. the clear fluid dribbles slowly. each droplet dehydrates until it is a tiny powder granule. the dust strikes the floor. it covers my chest. i wipe the dust away and sneeze. powder floats around my self-made cavern. it covers the walls. i breathe the dust in. i press my hands against my chest and breathe slowly, forcing the dust in and out of my lungs until my tongue numbs. a hooked finger pushes through the rock stones and strokes the sides of my feet. [you should come out, a voice says.] the finger works up the sides of my legs, then taps gently against my knees. [come out, the voice says] and the fingers dig into my flesh. the fingers tug. the fingers spread into wide hands that grasp my thighs and yank. the stones roll off the ceiling. they strike the floor and clatter away, rolling downhill while i claw at the hands. [let me go, i cry] and the hands pull my skin harder. my skin tears. i sit up and push the gray stones away from my face. a skeletal pumpkin sits in front of me. it drags its arms back. wormy fingers disappear into its gaping mouth. [hello, the pumpkin says] and leans to one side. it bites the ground with a quick snapping motion, uprooting several poisonous plants and the connecting dirt tendrils. i place my hands over my stomach and press down until my abdomen aches. [what are you, i ask.] the pumpkin rolls its eyes. it looks upward and vomits several times. a slow stream of purple vomit drips from its mouth and soaks into the ground, leaving a scalded purple stain. i place my hand against the stain and the skeletal pumpkin pushes me away. [my vomit, it says] and scoops the sullied dirt up. the dirt drops into its mouth and disappears. a faint red glow covers its pumpkin chest, then dissipates into several elaborate striations. [are you here for the bones, the skeletal pumpkin asks.] i stand up slowly. my feet sink into the ground. [what bones, i ask] yanking my feet up. the skeletal pumpkin rises onto its wooden vines. it slides through the dirt, its stem flexing with effort. [the bones up there, the skeletal pumpkin says] and points straight ahead. i squint and see the outline of a large tree in the middle of a field. [what is it, i ask.] the skeletal pumpkin sighs. [the devil tree. don’t tell on me, it says.]

the skeletal pumpkin
pulls me away from the devil tree. i reach for the trunk and the pumpkin knocks my hands away. [you can’t touch it, the skeletal pumpkin whispers. that’s the kind of tree that bites.] i lean over. a thick fog grows near the edge of the field. slowly, it drifts in our direction, coating the ground with a pale gray cloud. i push the fog away. i stare at the trunk but do not see any teeth tucked into the spaces between the bark. [i don’t see anything, i whisper.] the skeletal pumpkin sighs. it roots its body into the ground and disappears into the fog. [you aren’t supposed to see the teeth, the skeletal pumpkin whispers, its voice echoing through the field. that’s why it is a devil tree.] i reach into the fog and pat the skeletal pumpkin on the head. my hand thumps against its hard enamel and the skeletal pumpkin squeals softly. [can we be friends, it asks.] i lift the pumpkin off the ground and hold it to my chest. the pumpkin vibrates slowly, like a heartbeat, its flesh pulsating until little meat slabs drip out of its carved face. [who carved you, i ask.] [a hand. but it doesn’t come from this tree, the skeletal pumpkin whispers. we should go.] the skeletal pumpkin strains to get away from me. i pat its stumpy stem and the skeletal pumpkin sighs. i put it on the ground and the fog covers the gourd again. i turn to the devil tree. the trunk is slightly darker than most trees i have seen in my life. the bark is slightly thicker in some parts but it is not a scary tree. near the back of the tree, a branch extends over the field, the limb pulled down until parallel with the ground. i touch the tree. my hands burn. [is the wood covered with poison, i ask.] the skeletal pumpkin rushes around my feet. it nudges my ankles gently. [we should go, the skeletal pumpkin says.] i push the pumpkin away. i put my hands on the tree and reach up, finding a thick branch to seize. my fingers curl around a bough and i place a foot against the uneven tree surface. [up i go, i say] and pull. the skeletal pumpkin screams. my skin aches. my legs scrape against the tree bark as i climb. my arm entwines around the branch and i drape my chest over the limb. [i’m up, i say.] the skeletal pumpkin leaps out of the fog and moans softly. [but you’re going to die now, it says.] i look at my hands. yellowish blisters cover the palms. i tap the burn marks with my nails. the blisters erupt. dust pours out of the holes and covers my hands. [how did i lose so much blood, i ask.] the skeletal pumpkin flips onto its side and whips the fog with its tendrils. [you are dead, the skeletal pumpkin sighs. you’ve been dead for days. the drying process was the final stage.] i stare at the skeletal pumpkin. i look at my dusty hands. i press my lips together and turn to the tree trunk. my face scrapes against the trunk and i stare into the wood. the wood moves. it rolls beneath my skin. it spreads and in each space, a face stares back at me, mouth stretched until it resembles a salivating crescent moon, the eyes squinted until just tiny squiggles on the face. the faces lunge at me. they bite my lip. tiny fangs, translucent milk-teeth, dig into my lip and gnaw the flesh. i pull back. my skin rips. the faces merge into an eye. the eye blinks several times and its pupil engorges with tree pulp. [you stink of vinegar, the eye says] and pushes me.

i fall onto
the skeletal pumpkin. it pushes me away. we sit in the fog together. condensation covers our faces. [why did you go into the tree, the skeletal pumpkin asks] and burns its accordion face with a tiny match plant. i bite the skeletal pumpkin. it presses its skeletal mouth together and whimpers several times. [i am not pie, the skeletal pumpkin says. how dare you treat me like that? do you think i am sugared and baked so that you can have a culinary delight? i am not. in fact, i am full of parsley. its poison leaves grow out of my seeds. they sprout between my fake teeth. so i am an abortive thing. you cannot press your tongue against me without losing your uterus. it’s sad. but necessary. otherwise, everyone would run around trying to peel me open and eat my contents.] the skeletal pumpkin puts its fingers in its eyes. i pull its arms apart and pull the pumpkin onto my lap. [you are so angry, i say] and the skeletal pumpkin sighs. [why did you go into the tree, it asks.] we look up. the tree glows with a pale yellow-red light. the light travels from the tree’s base to its branches. the horizontal branch descends slightly, swinging towards our heads. we duck down. bark faces hiss. [how dare you touch us, the bark asks. you are pathetic. you cannot lay a finger on us without having it be bitten off. pathetic. pathetic. we don’t even let the virgins get this close.] the skeletal pumpkin whimpers. its anchovy spine tongue drops out of its mouth and stabs the fog. [i told you not to climb the tree. it’s such an angry thing. the meat will burn through its roots and bite you, the skeletal pumpkin says.] it puts its fingers in its eyes and cries softly. i pull its arms out. [would you stop, i ask. you are being overly dramatic.] the skeletal pumpkin crosses its triangle shapes. its gourd rises and falls several times. i pat the skeletal pumpkin and stand up. the devil tree hisses. it spits poison plants in my direction. [how dare you try to face us, the bark faces hiss. we never gave you permission to give us a kiss. if anything, we will tear you into pieces and rip your heart out. do not test us. we have a taste for rotten meat.] i touch the devil tree. i place my feet against the trunk and yank myself up. i smack the bark faces. they whimper. their tongues hang out of their mouths and touch the ground. [abuse, the devil tree cries. you are abusing me within an inch of my tree life.] i crawl through the tree branches. i drag my knees over the faces. i climb onto the horizontal branch and hang down, staring at the burned ash floor of the field for several minutes. [is that what you’ve been trying to protect, i ask.] the devil tree shudders. its leaves move back and forth. paper rustles against the back of my neck. [i like the meat, the devil tree says.] [then what were you trying to get out of me, i ask.] the devil tree rolls over the ground. it bulldozes the fog. the skeletal pumpkin leaps into the air and lands on my back. [you can’t eat us, the skeletal pumpkin squeals] and burrows its vines into my waist. i reach over my shoulders and smack the skeletal pumpkin. [stop, i say. you’re going to make me bleed.] [no blood, the skeletal pumpkin and tree cry.] they puncture my knees. yellow dust drifts out of my swollen caps. powder slicks over the tree, leaving amber stains. [dust skin, the skeletal pumpkin and the tree say.] i fall down.

the devil tree lifts its roots out of the ground. it sprinkles my face with dirt. i wipe the grit away. it catches between my teeth. [i think i would rather go to the cemetery, i say and the devil tree hisses.] its bark faces open wide. their cheeks blossom like flowers. [i knew a red-draped woman once, the devil tree whispers. she was kind. but she woke me many times in the middle of the night. no matter how i tossed and turned, she dug her fingers into my spine.] the devil tree’s limbs lower until they brush over the dirt, tearing the grass up. i pat the tree gently. the skeletal pumpkin climbs onto my back and plays with the vertebrae pushing out of my spine. [do you think we can have the bones hiding in your trunk, the skeletal pumpkin asks.] the devil tree stops. it turns slowly. its bark faces open and close. [what makes you think i have any bones inside my bark, the devil tree says.] the skeletal pumpkin ducks down, hiding its face behind my scapulae. i twist slightly and the skeletal pumpkin falls to the floor. [not nice, the gourd says] and struggles to pull its weight free of a mud puddle. i grab its stem and yank the skeletal pumpkin out of the mud. [why do you think i have bones, the devil tree asks.] the skeletal pumpkin hangs its spinal tongue over the ground. [i assumed, the skeletal pumpkin says.] it vomits little red clots. i cup my hands together and the clots rest on my palms. i pat the skeletal pumpkin and it forces a smile. [do you have any bones, i ask.] the devil tree shakes its limbs. purple fruits drop off its branches and smash against the dirt floor. yellow juice pours out of the fruits. it saturates the ground. orange mud forms. [they are not bones, the devil tree says. they are bone fruits. there might be bone seeds inside. but i can’t tell. it’s a problem for me. my branches don’t work like fingers.] the skeletal pumpkin shuffles forward. it grabs a bone fruit and works its fingers around the peel. it yanks the meat apart and the pith drops to the floor. i lift the pith to my mouth. my lips pucker around the bitter flavor. [it has a strange sweet sour, i say] and swallow. the skeletal pumpkin shatters the fruit. it squeezes the meat and bone seeds pour out. tiny white shapes fill the skeletal pumpkin. they drip onto the floor. i lift one seed and hold it to my eye. the seed has a vague femur shape. i turn the seed around and the moon reaches down to snatch it away. [i have been waiting for a bone seed for eternities, the moon says] and gobbles the bone seed down. the skeletal pumpkin sobs over the seeds. it lifts handfuls to its mouth and drops them onto its lap. [they are bones, the skeletal pumpkin moans. beautiful, juicy, marrow-filled bones. spinal cords and phalanges and clavicles. all in perfect shape.] the skeletal pumpkin drops onto its side and moans. the bones push through the skeletal pumpkin’s shell and stick to its tongue. the devil tree watches silently. more fruits roll off the limbs and shatter on the floor. i walk to the tree. i wrap my arms around it and stroke the tree bark until it flakes. [i will miss the bone meat, the devil tree says] and shudders. i sit on the roots. i place my head against the trunk. [the skeletal pumpkin is very happy, i say.] the devil tree nods. [i was not always bloodless, i say. i must look for a red place to become whole again.] the devil tree does not move. [do you know one, i ask.] a pomegranate rolls into my lap.

Copyright 2012. Alana I. Capria. All Rights Reserved.