By Elizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes
ASHLEY SUGARNOTCH AND THE BIG RED BOW
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.
ASHLEY SUGARNOTCH AND A WORLD OF
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.
THE WOLF AND THE WALL
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.
ASHLEY SUGARNOTCH AND HER MOTHER
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.
THE WOLF AND THE DISTINCT FEELING
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
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.