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  • An Exercise in Self-deprecation, and: Brink, and: Leaving the Meat Market, and: The Space between Words
  • Genevieve N. Williams (bio)

An Exercise in Self-deprecation

You are staying at your poet friends’ place while they take their two daughters to Disneyland when you wake to the bumping of moth against lampshade. Because you are alone at the bottom of a dirt road in a forest north of the city, you pad on the balls of your feet to the far end of the room, where the moth now twitches and flips on your library copy of Lust. You are annoyed, really actually annoyed, to have woken up to this cliché, which is dying in the most dramatic way possible short of a candle flame. When the twitches stop, you slide the body into the kitchen trash and go back to bed, where you peruse YouTube videos like “The Six Lesbians You’ll Date Before You Die.” Only the dog knows the extent of your neurotic yen as you check your texts again, and again are confounded by I just need some time alonethat is all I am sorry, sent at 11:58 last Wednesday, and the dog circles this same spot three times then goes counterclockwise before scrunching the entirety of his big body onto a tiny rug. The dog sighs into his paws as you place your phone on its face and laugh inconsolably into memory foam. You laugh yourself to sleep. [End Page 150]


I work small bones from the back of my mouth to my front teeth, pluck and drop them in a pile on a plastic plate. How easy it could be to go like this: cross-legged on the kitchen stool, mackerel flash-fried only a moment ago, an untongued bone fixed and final in my throat.

After shattering a bottle of Shalimar to slit her wrists, my mother paused—its alcohol would sterilize the wound. I must not want to die after all, she laughed.

I can’t stop laughing as the barrel of a gun jabs my right side. You think this is a fucking joke? Open the drawer. No, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I know it’s not a joke, I say and back away, fold forward over my knees. The robber leaves, staggers crablike out the door with only tens and ones—the event is done.

I’ll be all right, my mother decided, swept the glass and bagged it twice to protect the palms of garbage men. How her dresser smelled of death for days— the perfumed haze made her open the shades, lift every window to bright noise.

Leaving the Meat Market

E bumps her oxygen tank up into the cooler. A refrigerated pig lies near her feet as she laughs off our concern: Aunt K feeding [End Page 151] the big steel machine as a cigarette angles down from her mouth. Above, a ceiling fan circling slowly. I watch still-orange ash drop into air and float. Unnecessary risk, we say. You should rest, we say. E laughs, and who can blame her, having outlived her own life. She adjusts the plastic line behind her ear and we leave Meat Market for the used record store down the street. There, a cat eyes us from behind a tipped-over bookshelf. Some books fall to the floor. Some books slide halfway off their shelves and stay there. A breath of air or touch of palm to spine could send the whole store into panic, or merely the cat, who skulks into an adjoining room as we leave and an attendant nods our exit.

The Space between Words

Did your mom move with you? I know not to ask again. What isn’t said crushes, as when I loaded Geranda into the matte-black horse trailer and she leaned her 1500 pounds against me. [End Page 152]

For a moment that was it, I was air. My feet were not my feet, the voice that sliced through the yard not my voice.

They say you can’t walk a straight line blindfolded. Today everything exists with more urgency. A red switchblade slips from a stranger...


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pp. 150-153
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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