She, He, It, Thou by Lindsay Brader

I hit the asphalt and know what it means to be missing     another statistic another scare-tactic-story      their damsel      a name on a poster with a number to call I’d been walking in the      rain      Tears are automatic salty and surprising     I can smell him speaking on top of me      nicotineC10H14N2      money? no money     Why were you out alone so late at night? they’ll ask      I remember my first apartment a girl robbed-and-stabbed a few blocks away      my roommates called their fathers      placed a bat by the door bought pink pepper spray for their key chains      Where’s yours Why aren’t you afraid?

So it goes

girls

He’s on his knees I’m underneath he’s heavier than the soaked sky      I’m saying stop help he’s grey and invisible I’m hoping no one is watching he’s asking for something I’m hoping someone will see he’s pressing it into my back      his cock? a gun? I can’t decide which would be worse fuck      fuck pepper spray      fuck staying in      safety is a short haircut is burying my name      is always saying yes      is for valves and nets and guns and slogans.

 

Sitting on my back steps sucking in the static air and trying to make shapes with my breath, I saw her—a yellow rain coat, her backpack sitting tired on her shoulders, something soft in the way she walked like a deer before the rifle shot and there was something too quiet about the sky so I stomped out my smoke and followed her just a few houses down, past the well-lit fire station, and watched her some more before I lifted my grey hoodie to hide my face and pushed her down, made her kiss the ground with her gasping mouth, and it wasn’t until she started crying a little and saying she didn’t have any money that I recognized her from a bonfire at my place a few weeks back, a pretty brunette Chemistry major who’d said to me blankly, “You’re drunk” as if that was a bad thing but I knew what she really meant, that she doesn’t smile at boys who failed out of college, that I don’t have enough class to be so close to her, but there I was, pressing it against her spine, close enough to taste her sweet clean hair, close enough to touch the peak of her ear with my lips as I told her, I don’t need your money, just smile, but she couldn’t even do that.

 

My head cocked, my wings at rest, I watch him watch her. I watch him follow her. I wait for him to pull the knife from his back pocket. Tonight is different. Tonight the rain is an afterthought. Tonight, he only smells of cigarettes and the girl is familiar to us both. Not the strangers he usually kisses and bites until their lips bleed. But I’ll still get what I need and he’ll still try to. His jeans are ripping at the knees.

“Crow” (image via Flickr user MShades)

He once threw rocks at me and called my voice ugly so I sang louder. I don’t care what he says, I have my own beauty—my sound movements, my utter blackness as if my feathers, beak, and eyes were dipped in ink. And my wings, my wings are brilliant, the evolution humans can only mimic, their imitations glued together and melting. They want my sky. The color they can’t predict, a place to put their gods. I watch the men and women going and driving and coming and driving, they think they’re so smart with the towers and toys their languages can build. But I hear them in their houses whispering, screaming, crying—they never say what they mean. If they had my view of things they wouldn’t do it this way, they’d see that they’re ants. You know what happens to an ant when you separate it from its colony? It dies.

That’s one of the differences between me and the boy in the house below; I know how to get what I need. Sky. Food. A place to rest. I scavenge crops and garbage cans, I eat their pleases and thank yous, and devour their half-mumbled prayers. His yard is one of my spots because it’s a mess full of useful trash. A burnt couch, a torn apart desk, cereal boxes, and beer cans. And this twitching bug of a boy is always sitting down there silent on his back steps smoking Camels and I sing, sing, sing and caw-caw-caw and his lungs shrink smaller every day until his breath sounds like an apology.

I was there when he rolled the couch into his backyard fire pit. He wasn’t laughing, he wasn’t yelling or pulsing red, he just re-lit the coals and pushed it in to watch the floral fabric burn down to its wooden skeleton. Earlier that night he’d met her. She put her hand over her mouth when she laughed. He asked her what she was studying in school and she said Chemistry and he said cool and she said what about you and he said he’s taking some time off and she said cool and he said do you want a beer and she said no thanks and they stood there for a while and watched the fire burn out.

Tonight, the rain is soft and smoggy, as if it’s not even falling. I watch. I sing. I fly away before the ending. I don’t need it.

Lindsay Brader lives in Bellingham, Washington. Her work has appeared in Jeopardy Magazine and The Blue Route and on her website, upwardoverthemountain.blogspot.com. A recent college graduate, she now spends her time working on grad school applications and writing inappropriate poems at late hours of the night.