I have rubber-band hands and
Where I come from everything is
Fingerfood. we break the shape
of rice on our plates and smoke
escapes from the side of our palms.
and strip down fishbones naked
when in rain, we churn aubergine
In winters we wed coco-
nuts to jaggery. Later
we stir heartburn – strikes as stiff
as cheese fried with tume-
ric. but to chilli we are
subjective. pork is eaten
but outside the home at road
side stalls with sizzling woks to
warm your pockets deep and leave
you smiling in a damp all-
ey, in our evening-old city
Sristi is currently studying toward her Bachelor’s qualification in English Literature and creative writing. She’s had a knack in writing fiction and poetry for years now, her debut novel, The Little Mountain (published with Olympia Publishers, UK) vouches on her interest in Tibetology and secrets of the oriental culture. Sristi works as a Marketing Author to earn a living and aspires to build a career in screenwriting as well. Her style in poetry is very personal and often has references to authors who helped her love for writing survive. Her poems are generally about the pace of life, her childhood, her experiences and emotions and her beloved home city, Kolkata.
There was something comforting about handling a machine. The nature of the situation was almost always evident: understand the laws of thermodynamics, the dangers and uses of friction, the chemistry of combustion, and it was possible to handle any problems that might arise. The inexplicable could be explained, the right decision implicit in the conditions. Incorrect decisions were measurable. And if something went wrong, there would be a solution. Or at a least a clear reason for scrapping the heap.
When she couldn’t get back to sleep after Rob had left for work, Morgan sought out machines. She replaced the air filter on the furnace and cleaned the humidifier. She checked the transfer switch to the backup generator. She tossed a load of laundry into the washing machine and listened to its rhythmic churning for a few minutes, staring at Rob’s yellow shirt still hanging over the sink. She sniffed at it, but it hadn’t grown any more scent since Tuesday night. As usual, Rob had done a thorough job.
What had been on the shirt? And why did she care? Why was she so sure Rob was daring her to notice it? It could have been anything—a soil sample, some chemical from the lab. Coffee, which his doctor said he should avoid. Red wine (she’d counted the unopened bottles, though, hadn’t she?). Cigar ash? Lipstick, perfume?
She was straying too far from the world of machines. She pulled the shirt down from its hanger and tossed it in with the rest of the roiling laundry, where it was soon buried in suds. It made her feel better, but not good.
Cheryl Walsh earned her MFA in creative writing at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her novel Unequal Temperament won the Buffalo Books Fiction Prize and is forthcoming in 2023 from Buffalo Books and the University Press of Kansas. She has been awarded writing residencies with the Djerassi Resident Artist Program and Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, and her work has appeared in Short Édition, the anthology Imagination & Place: Cartography, the audio magazine The Drum, and such literary magazines as Confrontation, Cicada, and The MacGuffin, among others. Follow her on Twitter @IrishRoad.
“I round the year in myth and fable, and limn my calendar days with joy.” Maria held in her right hand an old glass bowl that was half-filled with honey and milk.
Accompanied by her group of Russian wolfhounds, she fled to the countryside. She’d resolved to spend the rest of her days a recluse at her parents’ vacation home on Canyon Lake, deep in the Texas hill country. “Hell is other people,” the old Sartre quote resounded. She could almost hear the faculty gloating: “She’s flown off to live with her deviant kin.”
Too much backtalk and duplicity. Rumors begat with malice. Maria remained a vegetarian but had never been able to shake the habit of smoking, so she smoked outside with her students. There were rumors she was sleeping with them, male and female; or with both at once. She had a grotto or coven, they propounded. A chemistry professor of no mean erudition, she’d nonetheless obtained tenure only by means of the black arts and sex, they said. Outlandish ceremonies; lurid blood-pacts; gory sacrifices. “A bruja!” There were some rituals in which she engaged, the provost claimed — and Maria remembered these words well — “with violent extravagance.”
Those yarns were bad enough, but one especially disturbed: That she had a hidden chamber that contained thirteen mannequins, and these mannequins were kept dressed as her colleagues. Upon these figures she plied her hexes. There were male mannequins among them, too, furnished with obscenely large genitalia, and she’d couple with them–an odd detail that, she guessed, was supposed to mock her reputed hypersexuality but also explain her lack of a husband – an anachronistic and unfair prejudice for these days, she thought. “This part of Texas still has its backwardness, mija,” her grandmother once warned. “But this whole ayé can be damned backwards, too.”
Maria dispatched Belva, favorite of her Russian wolfhounds, to check the inner room at the lake home. (Belva had been named after a similar-looking borzoi owned by Theda Bara; the silent film vampire was Maria’s long-time idol.) With lowered head Belva reported that all was good; things were as they’d left them. Maria switched on the light and counted the shadows of heads on the wall, delighted to find the normal thirteen. With a final ingredient added as a catalyst to the honey and milk, Maria began stirring with purpose, pestle in left hand.
“I round the year in myth and fable, and limn my calendar days with hate.”
Oliver Sheppard was born in Nashville, Tennessee and currently writes in Texas. His Thirteen Nocturnes collection of poetry was a 2020 Elgin Award Finalist and was long-listed in the 2019 Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection. In the Winter 2021 issue of Spectral Realms, Sheppard was proclaimed “a major new voice in the genre of macabre poetry.”