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  • Basement, 1997, and: My Grandfather's Money, and: Collapse Dance
  • Fiona Chamness (bio)

Basement, 1997

If you feel like something happened, they say,then it probably did. It. If you feel like.Happened, probably, something (& the somethingalways the same). But oh, if you had the catalogueof all the things I feel like happened—I feel like beneath the stairs down therea cohort of devils, half-faces,black draft of wing. Storm shelter a cold,blue-white apertureto an all-belly cell. The laboratorywhere the scientist grows monstersas real as the guts of shortwave radio& wrapping paper spooledover the counter. & who can trusta girl circuited to feel like that?Indiscriminate. Instincts wiredto twenty worlds. Better to dependon what I know. I knowwhenever I descended the steps aloneI sang. I believed I could keep it all at bay.I was told, if that counts,that I was once found thereatop the laundry table, catatonic.& if that unmemory feelslike a hole in spacetime,what does that say of feeling like? What does it say [End Page 160] of something & how if you probably.Happened. Feel like. Something.They say. Did.

My Grandfather's Money

Warmer than summer, more filling than food, sweeter than woman and dearer than blood, stronger than water and kinder than dove, Say the name of the one you love.

peter s. beagle

Just when I thought it might finally be getting warmerhere, that sleet might stop eating our hair and summeredge its way in, this ambush, saw and buzz, fillingmy mailbox. Drowning my sleep. Souring my foodon its way down. Sharper than sugar and sweeterthan a knife. I know this sound. I have heard one womanmake it. She had to use her second throat. A rosewood box, dearerto her than any other organ, faster in her hands than blood.

Here is the history of our girls: our skin heals strongereach day it's peeled off. My great-grandfather had no use for water.He had corkscrews for fingers, clicking in the dark. It would be kinderto say that. The truth is, they were fingers. I want to say a dovecooed out a warning to his wife before they married, I want to sayit made her a present of its claws and wings, but really her namemeant "gracious," and no one armed her, and no oneheard her violin without him smoldering. Imagine a love

poisoned that long by envy, think of how such a lovewould scream every time the metal of his flute grew warmerunder his lips. He practiced every day. Onespear of music gutting a house of two musicians. Summerwas his daughter's sweat when he called her name. [End Page 161] Winter was molding his son to soldierhood, pouring a cold steel fillingthrough the center of his spine. Decades later he only had to say,quietly, at the dinner table, "Robert, your daughter is forking her food

with two hands," and my mother blanched and dovebeneath her chair. Again, our girls, his wife, his daughter, his son's: sweeterwhen our strings are tightened, higher, kinder;clench hard enough and our silence will singe your ears. It was the womanin the box, maybe, while he fucked and beat the violin. It was the waterstanding by and shivering while he pumped the dearerchild at the well. Stories like these are strongerthan the liquor, which bows my taut veins now and makes my blood

shriek in a voice which is louder than the voice of blood.Liquor is the first thing I think of to buy with my grandfather's love,with my grandfather's money, some sweet firework strongerthan his arm or his father's arm, warmerthan his hard-edged card telling me to cash the check fast, dearerthan the mellow of his voice in his advanced age, the onesoftness I never trusted. I let my mouth waterand harshen with the heat of a whole summer

of spit I'd cast on him, this chance to become...


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