The Dinosaur-Robot Episode

October 19, 2016
00:0000:00

Present at the Editorial Table:

KathleenVolk Miller

LaurenPatterson

TimFitts

CaitlinMcLaughlin

JasonSchneiderman

MarionWrenn

 

Engineering Producer:

JoeZang

 

PBQ Box Score: 2=0

 

Welcometo Episode 19 of Slush Pile!

 

Forthis episode, we have two “creepy” poems submitted for our Monsters Issue bySarah Kain Gutowski.

 

SarahKain Gutowski can't keep succulents alive and is easily distracted by allthings blue and shiny. Find her on Instagram @sarahkaingutowski to follow herannual #domesticviolenceawareness project during the month of October, or ather blog, Mimsy and Outgrabe, where she keeps a messy, irregular,sometimes profanity-laced record of her life as a writer, academic, and motherof three.

 

Whilethese poems, part of a suite, did not get unanimous votes, we all felt theyenveloped us into a universe of magical realism. True to the tradition of scarystories, these poems demand to be read slowly, deliberately, and out loud.Additionally, Gutowski’s work is more than simply scary. Like Kathy says,“Sometimes freaky shit happens,” and these poems force our team to consider theambiguities of life, or pre-death, as Tim puts it.

 

Listen to the outcome, but one thing isfor sure: these poems are stronger together.

 

Comment on our Facebook event page oron Twitter with #frogtongue and sign for our email list if you’re in the area,and even if you’re not!

 

Read on!

 

Chapter VI: The Children Have a Request

 

Theseason stretched itself thin, weakened by storms and heat.

  Inside the damp, shadowy space of thechildren’s fort,

  the woman with the frog tongue wove basketsand bowls

  with tight, interlocked laces, while her silkstitches

  began to fray and lengthen. The gap betweenher lips

  widened to where the children could see thewhite of her teeth.

  They stared at her, sometimes; she saw themclench their jaws

  and try to speak to each other without movingtheir mouths.

Beforelong they’d begin to laugh, and she’d shake with relief at the sound.

 

Thenone day, when the trees broke into glittering shards

  of gold and red and green, and light spunpinwheels above

  their heads as they walked together betweenthe falling leaves,

  the girl looked at the woman and asked if shehad a name.

  At this, the woman jerked to a stop. The oldsurge,

  the impulse to speak that rose within herbelly and chest,

  overwhelmed. She wanted the girl and boy toknow her name.

  Her tongue, rolled tightly and barred frommoving inside its cage,

strainedagainst her teeth and cheeks, contorting her face with its rage.

 

Theboy stepped back when he saw the change on the woman’s face.

  The girl moved closer, though, to pat thehand she held

  like she might a frightened kitten orskittish, fallen bird.

  Let’sguess your name, she said. The woman’s jaw fell slack,

  as much as the stitches allowed. Her panicpassed away.

  The boy saw her relax and began to hoparound.

 A game, a game,he chanted. Across her eyes the sun

  sliced its blade, and though her vision bledwith its light,

shefelt cheered by the girl’s hand and the boy’s excitement.

 

Aurora. Jezebel. Serafina, guessed the girl.

  Her brother laughed and grabbed a fallen branch,whacking

  the moss-covered roots of the treessurrounding them.

  The woman laughed, too, short bursts of airthrough her nose.

  Her happiness shocked them all. The boylaughed again,

  a raucous sound, and she looked the littlegirl in the eye.

  A curve tested her mouth’s seams, moregrimace than grin,

  but the girl smiled back and sighed with somerelief. Then she reached

towardthe woman and pulled her close, until they were cheek to cheek.

 

Thegirl’s face, cold and smooth, smelled of the moss and earth

  her brother lashed and whipped with vigorinto the air.

  The woman with the frog tongue hugged thegirl loosely,

  as if those little shoulder blades wereplanes of cloud,

  a shifting mist she could see and feelbetween her arms

  but couldn’t collect, or hold, or keep forher very own.

  The girl stepped back yet kept her hands bythe woman’s face.

  Her small, thin fingers hovered before thefraying threads.

Why don’t you take these out? she asked, as she touched each raggedend.

 

Atthis the boy stopped his joyful assault of the trees

  and ran to see for himself what theydiscussed each night

  when walking home: her muffled, chokedmurmurings,

  the gray lattice unraveling across her mouth.

  He peered closely at each loose stitch,searching beyond

  her lips for whatever monster she’d locked sopoorly inside.

  He found no monster, just a hint of pinktongue.

  So he shrugged, said Yes, and spun on his heel to resume his game.

Thegirl jumped up and down, shouting: Andthen you’ll tell us your name!

 

Thewoman watched the boy whip tree roots free of moss,

  the tufts spinning into the air andseparating,

  becoming dust, the dark green spores likebeaks of birds

  that plummet toward the rocky earth withoutfear.

  She watched the girl’s hair lift and fly awayfrom her head,

  the wind dividing its strands, the way ithung, suspended

  like dust in the sun, then sank like spores:a sudden drop.

  She worked her mouth from side to side, andby degrees

openedher lips enough to burble a sound that said: Maybe.

 

 

Chapter VII: She Grows a Second Heart

 

Thatnight she woke to find another oddity:

  during sleep her heart had split or twinneditself,

  and where one muscle pumped before, now beattwo.

  Her blood coursed through her veins twice asfast as before,

  and over those paths her skin buzzed andstammered, like wire

  strung tautly between two poles and chargedwith load.

  As if she’d run for miles across rollinghills,

  as if inside her chest two fists beat timeall day,

beneaththe bone she sped at death in the most alive way.

 

Theday crawled while her two hearts raced. Above the fire

  she set a series of clocks to ticking. Shewatched the flames,

  sometimes leaning close enough to feel theheat

  singe her stitches a deeper shade, theirfibers scorching

  until they curled, like dark froth spillingfrom her mouth.

  But when her hearts began to flicker more,and faster

  than she could stand, she turned her eyes tothe clocks’ marked faces

  and drew comfort from the second hands’neurotic twitch.

Everyminute witnessed meant another minute lived.

 

Beneathher breastbone her strange second heart pulsed harder.

  She sensed the muscle, like her tongue, wouldleap and fly

  away from her body if her body let it go.

  She took the silver-handled knife and inciseda cross

  above the cavity where her hearts balloonedtogether,

  jostling for room and dominance. The flaps ofskin,

  pale as egg shell, trembled slightly. A headappeared.

  A bird with obsidian eyes emerged wet withher blood,

shookto shed its burden, and leapt toward the rafters above.

 

Shewatched the bird and felt air seep into the space

  it left behind, her single heart unrivaledbut lonely

  in its great room. The wound bled slowly,healing fast

  to a pale silver scar, flaps falling back toclose

  neatly over the bone, which laid itself again

  like lines of track or scaffolding across herchest.

  The bird flew to the window’s sill, andticked its head

  to look back at the woman. A slight breeze,cool and calm,

caressedits dark wings, and it leapt for the steady branch of that arm.

 

 

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