Purple swirls on my breasts, belly—crystal balls—reveal my fate. Not all that grows is made from love—when a bee pollinates a sunflower, it is to take the nectar. He handled my skin like an aphid on a leaf while I clawed at him like a dormouse burrowing for the winter. Someone, a sister, might have asked, What was your first time like? Hands ungloved during snowfall, scabs peeled away, what should remain concealed was exposed. A face should be bare, but he veiled mine—pulling up my skirt. Were his eyes the color of dead grass? Was his mouth jagged, a cemetery full of crumbling tombstones? His breath smelled of vodka. Mine smelled of borscht. His words—a dull knife. My words—crouching in an empty well. His skin was of metal. Mine was of dust. What does the past look like when time is a shovel? What does night look like without the sky? How do I flee without a map? The Earth is of a magnetic field. The ocean is of an undertow.
Sara and the Fox
I remember looking at my reflection in a frozen pond, seeing my future crack. In the distance, a nebula consumes a house; kindling and logs pop stars in fog. In the corner of my eye, a fox faces north, listens for prey, dives into the snow, then clenches a squealing mouse in his jaws.
He faces north. I am the mouse he hunts through haze. His paws—coarse like a brick wall, like lava after it cools, like bones left in ashes—grab at me. At once, he creates and smolders my fire, so I spit cinders rather than the word, No. If I could pick myself up, piece together a full book of matches, I would become an inferno. I would burn it all down. Watch me.
-- Liz Marlow’s debut chapbook, They Become Stars, was the winner of the 2019 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition. Additionally, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Bitter Oleander, Mud Season Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Yemassee, and elsewhere.