Flash: Kirsten Ogden


The Anatomy of a Heart Wood

And sanity is the decay at my core. Because it doesn’t work right, this brain, so Sissie chants nursery rhymes to help me concentrate, to help me forget.

“Concentration,” she says.

Dark pith first, then sapwood; then underbellies of Hackberry leaves, their red-stick spines holding together the paper bodies, stretching to every point, until his thick breathing pushes into my face, forces the licking of lips past pink.

Everything sometimes gets messed up, but I try to think about qualities of light, the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, then eat a little, don’t wake up. Fissures forming. Growth rings in the sapwood. Hieroglyphics lining the backsides of my eyeballs. Inside me something is broken in the bone marrow, and I try to put it back right, each of my limbs holding bird nests, feeling lumens push along my stickbones to find each point of entry. Jimson Weed, the devil’s trumpet, eats up consciousness, just like that, but the bugs keep eating the moon-flower because the nectar is so sweet, the flowers open and close and open.

“Knowing this difference is what separates bees from bugs from kids like you,” is what Sissie says.

Like me. Marginally raw sugarcane stick. Nightshade nebula crossing the half sky. Owlet scanning for field mice. Pandemonium in the midbrain vibrating with zeal.

Quailing into the knuckles of the belly, I hear notes push down into my roots, then move through cracks along my vertebrae questing for more than this terrible incandescence, the body slipping, the transparent yellow-jackets ripping up my flowered core.

Restraint. Sissie’s voice like rocks hitting soil under the bed where the man hides sometimes, and no one is here to tell him stop so he does this too: traces his middle finger along my chin, up the bone cheek to the corner of my eye, him too heavy on top of me, but I yield anyway, yes, and sing: Ring-a ring o’roses, a pocket full of posies. Tentative safety. Unconscious xenophobia, then a piece of safety. Vacant vestibule of my mouth can’t find: ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

“Where are you?” Sissie asks.

Xylem veins. Yowling into my own brain stem; yielding my paper parapet; untangling this skein of memory. Zero-sum: this place I am.

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