Episode 019: The Dinosaur-Robot Episode

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Lauren Patterson

Tim Fitts

Caitlin McLaughlin

Jason Schneiderman

Marion Wrenn

 

Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 2=0

 

Welcome to Episode 19 of Slush Pile!

 

For this episode, we have two “creepy” poems submitted for our Monsters Issue by Sarah Kain Gutowski.

 

Sarah Kain Gutowski can’t keep succulents alive and is easily distracted by all things blue and shiny. Find her on Instagram @sarahkaingutowski to follow her annual #domesticviolenceawareness project during the month of October, or at her blog, Mimsy and Outgrabe, where she keeps a messy, irregular, sometimes profanity-laced record of her life as a writer, academic, and mother of three.

Sarah Kain Gutowski

Sarah Kain Gutowski

While these poems, part of a suite, did not get unanimous votes, we all felt they enveloped us into a universe of magical realism. True to the tradition of scary stories, these poems demand to be read slowly, deliberately, and out loud. Additionally, Gutowski’s work is more than simply scary. Like Kathy says, “Sometimes freaky shit happens,” and these poems force our team to consider the ambiguities of life, or pre-death, as Tim puts it.

 

Listen to the outcome, but one thing is for sure: these poems are stronger together.

 

 

 

Comment on our Facebook event page or on Twitter with #frogtongue and sign for our email list if you’re in the area, and even if you’re not!

 

Read on!

 

Chapter VI: The Children Have a Request

The season stretched itself thin, weakened by storms and heat.

Inside the damp, shadowy space of the children’s fort,

the woman with the frog tongue wove baskets and bowls

with tight, interlocked laces, while her silk stitches

began to fray and lengthen. The gap between her lips

widened to where the children could see the white of her teeth.

They stared at her, sometimes; she saw them clench their jaws

and try to speak to each other without moving their mouths.

Before long they’d begin to laugh, and she’d shake with relief at the sound.

Then one day, when the trees broke into glittering shards

of gold and red and green, and light spun pinwheels above

their heads as they walked together between the falling leaves,

the girl looked at the woman and asked if she had a name.

At this, the woman jerked to a stop. The old surge,

the impulse to speak that rose within her belly and chest,

overwhelmed. She wanted the girl and boy to know her name.

Her tongue, rolled tightly and barred from moving inside its cage,

strained against her teeth and cheeks, contorting her face with its rage.

The boy stepped back when he saw the change on the woman’s face.

The girl moved closer, though, to pat the hand she held

like she might a frightened kitten or skittish, fallen bird.

Let’s guess your name, she said. The woman’s jaw fell slack,

as much as the stitches allowed. Her panic passed away.

The boy saw her relax and began to hop around.

A game, a game, he chanted. Across her eyes the sun

sliced its blade, and though her vision bled with its light,

she felt cheered by the girl’s hand and the boy’s excitement.

Aurora. Jezebel. Serafina, guessed the girl.

Her brother laughed and grabbed a fallen branch, whacking

the moss-covered roots of the trees surrounding them.

The woman laughed, too, short bursts of air through her nose.

Her happiness shocked them all. The boy laughed again,

a raucous sound, and she looked the little girl in the eye.

A curve tested her mouth’s seams, more grimace than grin,

but the girl smiled back and sighed with some relief. Then she reached

toward the woman and pulled her close, until they were cheek to cheek.

The girl’s face, cold and smooth, smelled of the moss and earth

her brother lashed and whipped with vigor into the air.

The woman with the frog tongue hugged the girl loosely,

as if those little shoulder blades were planes of cloud,

a shifting mist she could see and feel between her arms

but couldn’t collect, or hold, or keep for her very own.

The girl stepped back yet kept her hands by the woman’s face.

Her small, thin fingers hovered before the fraying threads.

Why don’t you take these out? she asked, as she touched each ragged end.

At this the boy stopped his joyful assault of the trees

and ran to see for himself what they discussed each night

when walking home: her muffled, choked murmurings,

the gray lattice unraveling across her mouth.

He peered closely at each loose stitch, searching beyond

her lips for whatever monster she’d locked so poorly inside.

He found no monster, just a hint of pink tongue.

So he shrugged, said Yes, and spun on his heel to resume his game.

The girl jumped up and down, shouting: And then you’ll tell us your name!

The woman watched the boy whip tree roots free of moss,

the tufts spinning into the air and separating,

becoming dust, the dark green spores like beaks of birds

that plummet toward the rocky earth without fear.

She watched the girl’s hair lift and fly away from her head,

the wind dividing its strands, the way it hung, suspended

like dust in the sun, then sank like spores: a sudden drop.

She worked her mouth from side to side, and by degrees

opened her lips enough to burble a sound that said: Maybe.

 

 

Chapter VII: She Grows a Second Heart

That night she woke to find another oddity:

during sleep her heart had split or twinned itself,

and where one muscle pumped before, now beat two.

Her blood coursed through her veins twice as fast as before,

and over those paths her skin buzzed and stammered, like wire

strung tautly between two poles and charged with load.

As if she’d run for miles across rolling hills,

as if inside her chest two fists beat time all day,

beneath the bone she sped at death in the most alive way.

The day crawled while her two hearts raced. Above the fire

she set a series of clocks to ticking. She watched the flames,

sometimes leaning close enough to feel the heat

singe her stitches a deeper shade, their fibers scorching

until they curled, like dark froth spilling from her mouth.

But when her hearts began to flicker more, and faster

than she could stand, she turned her eyes to the clocks’ marked faces

and drew comfort from the second hands’ neurotic twitch.

Every minute witnessed meant another minute lived.

Beneath her breastbone her strange second heart pulsed harder.

She sensed the muscle, like her tongue, would leap and fly

away from her body if her body let it go.

She took the silver-handled knife and incised a cross

above the cavity where her hearts ballooned together,

jostling for room and dominance. The flaps of skin,

pale as egg shell, trembled slightly. A head appeared.

A bird with obsidian eyes emerged wet with her blood,

shook to shed its burden, and leapt toward the rafters above.

She watched the bird and felt air seep into the space

it left behind, her single heart unrivaled but lonely

in its great room. The wound bled slowly, healing fast

to a pale silver scar, flaps falling back to close

neatly over the bone, which laid itself again

like lines of track or scaffolding across her chest.

The bird flew to the window’s sill, and ticked its head

to look back at the woman. A slight breeze, cool and calm,

caressed its dark wings, and it leapt for the steady branch of that arm.

 

 



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