by Jen Knox
Every dream a slip of a thing,
a sojourn into the ordinary, coveted past
until a deep quarantine sleep
pulled Jupiter toward our small Midwestern town.
Every step heavy, I trudged toward it.
The planetary pull, cartoon-like.
Its gravitational force
targeting a particular part of me,
leaving the rest enchanted but confused.
I rolled over to check the news, the charts,
the trends, and I stared out of my window.
As so many of us have. At 5 a.m., I saw Jupiter,
a slip of a thing with Saturn in its gaze.
Surrounded by stars in a sharp, dark morning sky.
And I felt hope.
The line for irregular, black shirts takes ten minutes. Forty-plus adults take single steps as stomachs hum. Necklines hang like hula-hoops.
At lunch, there is only a half-hour. A half-dozen ham and cheese. Now there’s just cheese. Thirty-plus adults with lettuce and cheese. Blankets are fibrous and prick the skin.
Warm lettuce means peeling wilted green bits off the tongue or swallowing slimy leaves whole. The tinfoil makes a perfect, silver ball. Silver balls are thrown, kicked.
Orange cheese and loose-necked shirts with twelve minutes to spare. Silver balls between blankets are reminiscent of Christmas tree bulbs.
For bus tickets, hands remain in pockets, eyes toward the street. There’s something slippery about mobility, so many remain. Those who stand take single steps. Patient steps.
Twenty-plus remain. Activities remain. Dance last week, art next, poetry this. A young teacher looks as though she is speaking to blind kittens. She closes her eyes and recites poems. She opens them and offers a writing prompt as pens and paper are handed out.
There is nothing to put the paper on. The concrete works best. The pen navigates tiny hills on the page. First come colors: purple, green, silver, and orange. The pen suggests the salty taste of ham that almost graced the tongue that was too many feet from the front of a line.
The pen moves beyond this. The pen moves much faster than the feet.
Our shadows introduce themselves
& regulars grumble when a top set of teeth bared,
even though we all know to grab the back legs.
The dogs run in transient packs, as squirrels rustle tree leaves
& fall moves downward on a slow-moving swing.
We kiss the air when it’s time to go.
The world should know we were here, too, but our scents hug tight
& we are left to share words and walkways, to scratch the same furry heads.
The imprint of my shoe finds yours.
I was dulled longer than you, so when I lost my sight, I wasn’t shaken.
Glass seals well, blurs lines and clarifies sight, so I wore
a glass dress & glass shoes, until you arrived with science and a string.
I felt the etching of sharp lines and gentle curves, the quiet power
beneath the watery surface & had reason to shatter beneath you. You,
with your collage of circumstance. A papier-mâché from elementary foretold.
A careful collection of porcelain shattered & glued created a map.
You described it all. You told me how, but I still struggled until I realized
the texture had to be rough to be felt, to be interpreted as anything at all.
My fleshy thumbs drag against surfaces, forever searching for the right word.
Jen Knox is an Ohio-born writer, meditation instructor, and the founder of Unleash Creatives. She is the author of Resolutions: A Family in Stories (AUX Media), After the Gazebo (Rain Mountain Press), which was nominated for the Pen/Faulkner Award, and The Glass City (Prize Americana for Prose winner). Her short work recently won the Flash Fiction Magazine‘s Editor’s Choice Award for 2020 and other writing can be found in The Best Small Fictions (edited by Amy Hempel), The Adirondack Review, Gargoyle Magazine, Little Fictions, Literary Orphans, Lunch Ticket, Poor Claudia, Room Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post. Jen is currently working on her first novel.