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The Stars

SMUSHED MARKER SADNESS

By Leslie Cairns

There’s red pinpicks like the fading fireworks around my irises, where the dancing used to be. There’s a firelight in my nightmares, where the daisies used to flee – a curlicue of a tiara, made simply, just for me.

There were hours where I used to laze my feet with socks unmatching on grass, waiting for the words to come to me. Now, I spit out dollars and worry about where the world will hold me, and if I’m going to spin into some sort of depraved antigravity. Fruit bowls turn to cabinets, my swing dance classes a luxury I no longer think I can pretend is for me– sometimes, before I shower, as the water pools near my feet, I still dream in 1 & 2 & 3– I think of a partner – ghost now– twirling me towards him, then dipping me in an airplane. My arms spread akimbo, as I wait for him, I suppose, to pull me back up, once more, and again.

There’s also books left unread on the mantel, when I used to stay up with the midnight hours, as the constellations watched me read. Pages, pages, dog marked from years ago. Saving their place – I suppose – for when I’m back around again.

There’s an audition time that went unsung. My notes practiced at home but never made the trip over there. There’s a space for me between those two ensemble girls, with their pleated skirts, their technicolor poppies, watching Dorothy as she sings about being free.

I wonder if the inky skies grow weary of holding all the light. If they realize they hold up the flashlights with their vastness- and wait – and wait – again for night.

My car holds onto the shoes I used for dancing, as we drive – weary – for another mile. We wonder if I can move my feet in the Charleston again, if decades later, I’ll be able to grab the jazz again. If years later, I’ll still enter rooms with spinning factory fans, wear the dress that glitters like an alligator about to swim– if I’ll still be able to devour the room with all the energy found in my dreams, patched in

gingham, that I’ve been holding onto – for another year– for sometime soon– for, I suppose, a time that will come later.

 

***

 

When I was a kid, there was that last crab apple scented marker in the classroom. I smelled it, stubbed it on the paper. It was wheezing one last spring color, just for me. I put it in the box, knowing it was smushed. Knowing the ink dried out, wondering if he could be an apple — or grass – or smell pretty, one more time. Give a kid a smile. I wonder if he dreamed of being a field, slowly, as he died. I told the teacher to dip the ink in water, one more time, to see if everything would make it. My fists were clenched, I left with sweat under my eyebrows. I looked back, saw no one around, put the marker in my pocket, and sang to him in grass-note songs. I drew on cement; I etched my name on trees. I wanted him out of the box as he was drying, as he was drying out.

 

I think of that color green from time to time. The way the color lingered on my hands for days, before I washed away the traces. How when I’m sad, I smell crab apples, manufactured. I think of taking dying breaths back. I think of how I stole a summer, took what wasn’t mine out of boxes, and let the sunshine – not death – dry away the remaining parts.

Leslie Cairns lives in Denver, CO. She has a prose chapbook ('The Food is the Fodder') with Bottlecap Press. She also has upcoming work in Fulminare Review, Moss Puppy Mag, and others. Twitter: starbucksgirly

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