by Emma Sloan

The Hanging at Hill Creek 

Every morning, the sun’s red spill
seeps back into the mountaintops.
Every morning, the worn soles
of Alayah’s boots skid in reverse up
the gravel path, the river ahead
receding, waiting for its time.

The twist of her body towards mine
— an afterthought, the pre-morning
light looping loose around the arch
of her throat— lasts longer every time
that we are here in these woods,
at this river, at this rope-swing.

Her smile rewinds. Your turn,
she says, the words buoyed
with the joy of not knowing.
The rope is white as bone
in her hands.

You’d think this would start
with a suicide note, a broken nose;
a threat that any girl who loves girls
is a dead girl, but it doesn’t.
It starts with a rope in her hand
and a smile in her eyes
and my chest bumping
like a dryer with shoes in it.

I wave my hand in a silent,
Tomorrow, but there is
no tomorrow.
Every day is this day, on this hill.
The sun rings the horizon, swollen
like a snakebite.
Crows startle from the treetops
in reverse.


Twist the Kaleidoscope Again

There are so many iterations of the same memory, a single one splintering into a
thousand as though it’s been sifted through a kaleidoscope, but it goes something like I
didn’t want to go, but it was time to leave or you were gone before I’d even realized
you’d chosen to say goodbye or you can pull someone out of a burning building, but
what if they’re the thing that’s on fire?

I think it’s human nature to remember someone as they were, not as they are, so I still
see you as whisper-shy by the seaside, backlit by that endless summer afternoon,
instead of snarling in the springtime – dizzy with delusion, frantically pulling the puzzle
pieces of our lives apart until all that’s left are the jagged pieces you’ve fashioned
yourself, delusions of serial killer and prostitute and liar shredding your fingers –

And there is no how-to guide on recovering from someone else’s psychosis, but I twist
the kaleidoscope until there’s something that resembles seeing you one last time (I
didn’t) by the water where we first walked (there wasn’t) so that you could hear that I
hoped you would be okay (you won’t).

Image by Stephen Norris via Pixabay