The Two-Headed City

by | May 12, 2023 | Picking up the Pieces

Before the invasion they planted their most beloved objects in their gardens. When the city was blasted, new roots fed on the past. The heartwood of trees was filled with pocket watches, dolls’ heads, love letters inked in cursive. Flowers bloomed with baby teeth.

Her voice like the jangle of a toy piano broken and eerie and beautiful. The underdark and the doomspeak and the unrhymed prosody of her life in this place. A reporter asks what happened. If you want truth, she says, ask the cemeteries.

Every bouquet she disarranges into wilder forms of color. Poppies mean eternal sleep. Gladiolus means you pierce my heart. Asphodel means my regrets follow you to the grave. Each flower a hammer to the nervous system of the world.

This stoneheavy town, the houses pocked by weather and war and time. Inside the coffin of her room, a shattered mirror, a butcher’s knife, a hat that says fuck off. A Christ on the wall with his lips stitched shut, all his cries lost inside him.

She remembers her lover, all the angles of desire as she circled him naked, his body an island of fire. He said it was her silence he liked. The nimbus of mystery, softening all her edges. No small talk, no hollow truths. Just quiet and the winged shadows of her eyes, a bird of prey at rest.

In the mirror she rubs astringent in the corners of her eyes, removes the purpleblack pigment with cotton balls. The cotton, her fingers are inked with it, her eyes suddenly sober with the world, the timidity of a creature stepping into firelight from the anonymous dark.

Warm orange peels in the bed to scent it for sleep. Stockings warmed by the fire which her mother pulls over her feet, the frozen air and the dead with their hair still combed, toenails growing underground.

Chimneys antennaes mouldering stone. A spiral of hair. A lost bauble glitters in the light. All this blasted optics and phantoms and palaces and ruined books receding into earth. Unmasked her eyes seem ancient, stunned, black as oil.

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