If I cross my middle finger

over my forefinger

I am wishing for luck.

If I cross my forefinger

over my middle finger

I don’t want them to hear us.

If I tap 2 fingers twice

against the door hinge

on the way to the kitchen, don’t

eat anything they give you.

If I touch my broken

right pinkie to my thumb

I am wishing to die.

If I put my hand

on your knee underneath

the table, I am trying

to choke hysteria.

If I tap 2 fingers twice

on my coffee cup,

the spider lilies are blooming again.

If you see me

punching the paisley wallpaper

over and over again,

I don’t want to talk about it.

If I brush my fingers

across my lips as I casually

adjust my glasses

I am begging you to be quiet.

If I hold my hand this way

the rain came in last night

and flooded my room.

If I hold my hand that way

they are still searching for

your body, the place

where they insist

you drowned.

If you run your fingers

across my knuckles and my

breath catches in my throat,

I love you.

A body says, “Hello.”

Another body does not reply.

A body says, “Hello.” Again.

Another body does not reply.

A body walks into a bad joke. A body feels like a bad joke.

A body tries to tell a bad joke to another body and another body walks away.

A body has breakfast alone.

A body skips lunch alone.

A body has coffee alone.

A body has dinner alone.

A body says, “Loneliness is not the unyielding force but the soft buoyancy of humid air that no one else can see.”

A body says, “Loneliness is not the story locked in the past but the inability to explain what happened.”

Or the inability to find someone who will listen.

A body says, “Loneliness is trying as hard as you can but still failing because (insert your beliefs about failing here).”

A body sees.

A body tastes.

A body touches.

A body feels the memories a body doesn’t want to feel. A body blocks them out. A body smothers them with a crashing wave. A body pounds them into the ground and refuses to let them breathe even for one second. A body can’t let them breathe for even a second.

A body hears a body’s fist connect with what a body cannot kill.

A body smells a body’s blood.

A body wonders how a body got hurt when a body was supposed to be inflicting all the hurt, all the punishment.

Copyright © 2018 by Jessica Halsey.

ISBN: 9781732036703

The first edition of this ebook was published by Jessica Halsey on April 30, 2016 and was titled RIVERKILL. This second edition has revised and updated content.

PROLOGUE

—words travel across the page in a sunset song sung softly your voice bleeds the line down a drop of ink on your tongue a stumble against the rumble strip a casualty of wandering and diesel fumes skinned haunches and shattered nose point towards the ragweed spine pokes through chewed skin defiantly the beginning of the line dresses itself in a drop of ink a hemorrhage here is the horizon bleeding down generations of sunrises and sunsets light comes up light goes down when you sing the road allocates flesh absorbs blood boneandfurfeathersscales pulverized to a fine sheen over the rumble strip and the verge the road stretches out sniffs with a dead thing’s nose gulps the sky with broken teeth—

There are no dragons here.

Abandon abandoned her children here,

where the moon howls

and they returned to eat her, there was

nothing else to eat.

Hope dangles on her broken strings here.

Twelve-bar blues and lungs collapse here.

The singing is silenced here.

Malice dances in the heat shimmer,

trees snap,

the tide pulls back to safer depths,

not here.

Here is the banquet, here

the patina of listlessness, here

the bones and the gristle and here

the soggy heart.