Here is the world she plays, Kelli Allen

Hornbill shadows through the threads in her socks and the whole of the lake bundled tight in her belly. Another morning for the girl, another hour watching across shore for her brother’s yellow boat. She reminds herself, in this waiting, that what the woodcutter splits is glued over severance when such waters seep wounded skin. This, too, is a duty between daughters and fathers: tending to broken roots before rot’s appetite bores holes more than well-deep. 

During the month of long nights, a gecko gives its life to the disagreement of two crows. But the girl wraps one thin leg around the other and the nest constructed is no refuge for anything tailed and hungry. It is nearing evening and stretched-out over rabbits, pelts sticky as evaporating nut milk, the mother does not allow agates, cock-shaped and orange-lined, time to speak. The girl listens to the same incantation, the same rhythm, and wishers her mother quiet, just once, just to let locusts sing the dinner dirge. The mother’s voice climbs over teeth and tongue anyway: what the stones say, the river says, too. This is not poetry for children too many years still ear-wet from the womb. 

When the three share a table between them, having agreed to masticate slow, thirty molar thrusts downward each, other breathing creatures align in the way of pilgrims in those woods. Circles form in any space suggested to them—even the catfish looking for warmth curl into one another at the suggestion of a waiting meal. Snails leave gelatin before daylight that the mother weaves into eleven arrow pierced cakes. The father tries not to swallow sand while his daughter’s hair collects the baked fletch as she eats, her bites light as an earthworm’s lung.

The caution of lilacs dictates a family’s scaffold atop grief. Mouths in triplicate give thanks as the mudwork dries and the false gratitude marks success on another floor lain straight and dust cleared. The missing remain so left, tucked behind busy tasks, tidy work to be done day and again. Before unfolding blankets, the daughter, father, and mother reach their arms round the table once more to form a clock. One finger from each hand points to the number for sleep, for when brother comes home, for don’t forget. 

About the contributor

Kelli Allen's work has appeared in numerous journals/anthologies in the US and internationally. She is currently a visiting professor for Rutgers University/RUNIN, in Changchun, China. Allen's new collection, Banjo's Inside Coyote, arrived from C&R Press March, 2019.

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