By Elizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes


I just hate how thin and toned my legs are. My arm and leg hairs are so light I barely even have to shave. Can’t my body be a little lopsided? One leg shorter than the other? I saw a young girl at the mall with these shoes, one wedge and the other flat. It compensated. I want to need to compensate. An old friend was born with two thumbs on one hand. Her parents cut one off—a shame for sure—but with the one she had left, L-shaped, she could smash anyone in thumb wrestling. She called it The Sledgehammer. My fingers? Even in winter, the cuticles don’t tear. Even chewing them. Maybe I wouldn’t mind looking so lovely and framed if I had something like heart surgery and a scar I could show off with strapless dresses. We weren’t rich growing up; we were comfortable. If I had needed the surgery, or those shoes, we could have afforded it. This isn’t so ridiculous, what I’m asking. My mother and father smoked cigars occasionally, had a glass of wine with friends. But these points of decay don’t interest me. I’m not interested in
some death film only visible when my body is pieced apart during autopsy. Even my ears are the same shape. Maybe something will just happen, you know? Some sort of accident or mishap. My father lost a chunk of ear during a war or something similar. He would always touch towards the
blank space at the dinner table to remind us of something we couldn’t know. But this was before. I am trying to know the things I can’t. For Halloween, I wore my green swimsuit bottoms and a big red bow tied around my chest, a new car and a new car model. Everyone asked what I was. When I told them a present to be presented, they tugged at the bow end and look past my eyes.




When I was a kid, when imagining what to wish when given wishes (every child is supposed to have wishes), I wondered if I should wish to feel all the pain in my life at once. Even then I knew it would kill me. I began to calculate how I could spread it out. Should I get it over once a year, like vaccines? Have I ever said that my mother was murdered? Shot by my father, for reasons I’m unsure of. After the shooting, I was basically an orphan. For all legal purposes, I was. Except when you’re already 18, they don’t use words like “orphan” anymore. I was in the house. My father turned himself in, and when the police arrived, they found my mother, and then me. In my room watching the light wind out from the fan blades. Center still but unfurling. The papers said, “unharmed.” When I learned about the golden ratio, I saw my pain like a part of nature, a shell or a bean pole, spiraling from a center point. Out and out. When I feel myself spiraling now, I count. Lie as still as possible; count. I imagine that I am a circle, my mother is pi. And I believe that I have such perfect space, that each thing about me is even, calculable. Every time I start to tell a story, I stop believing it.




i must have been four five.  
i was with my mother  
at the park running or  
jumping. i ran to a  
wall that cut against a  
small hill. i ran from its  
low base toward its peak.  
flying. arms outstretched then  
falling my clumsy foot  
misplaced. my head on the  
pavement clattering. i  
should have blacked out instead  
some white white burn enclosed  
my skull. something so hot/  
cold you can’t at first tell  
which. my mother ran  
to me and as she grasped  
for my body i clawed  
for her face. she said my  
name and i balled up the  
act into my own fists.


My mother’s voice clicked softly like ivory coins in the thickness of night, hushing me as she would slowly pull the handle of my door and—hinges squeaking small like a whinny—sneak inside to sleep on the braided rag rug beside my bed. Close your eyes, little one. Keep sleeping. I did, because my mother said so. When I would wake next, the sunshine screaming through the window, my mother would be gone, already drinking coffee, face put on and dressed. Except once. I woke in the reticent dusk to see her curled on the rug facing the door, hands balled into fists. In the grayness, I decided to believe that the murk in bloom on her neck was the slightness of shadow, not yet illuminated by day.




do you have the distinct feeling  
of atrophy ashley? not you  
but the sense of thinning out our  
world? i ran over a dead squirrel  
today his uncrushed bones pinching  
flat against the road. he never  
had a chance. they’re so quick too.  
how was he ever crushed? power’s  
been out since eight. i never left

my bed. just watched the storms burst and swell rise/  
fall. at ten i saw nothing until the  
lightning dashed darkness into day. but then  
the whole picture became exposed. where are  
you tonight ashley? i watched last summer  
you wade in the river and wait. sky  
splitting open hoping if moss wouldn’t  
grow into your hair that lightning would melt  
your legs together toes and fingers webbed.  

(my hands could melt you  
shut. they have such heat.)  

i hardly knew you then  
but you never did it  
again never once were  
willing to wait for some  
thing to happen. there is  
not enough world left for  
you. it’s atrophying  
ashley. more than just moss  
not growing. before rain  
i heard only a lone  
cicada. it landed  

in my lap.  
what aren’t you  
waiting for?

Elizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes was born in Harrisburg, PA and has a BA in Creative Writing from Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University. She has appeared or is forthcoming in The Birds We Piled Loosely, SmokeLong Quarterly, cahoodaloodaling, Mom Egg Review, and Whiskey Island. She has chapbook, Patterning, from Corgi Snorkel Press.