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Three Stories by Sarah Tourjee


OUR QUICK EVOLUTION

 

In June we shed our skin once more like film. We saved it like nostalgia, we forgot it. Snakes resented our resilience, our quick evolution. We resented their detachable jaws, their ambition.

     We forged for food ten times larger than ourselves. We opened our mouths and grew to accommodate it.

     We discovered the sun. We noticed its movements, and the way something small could block it from something smaller. We hid behind rocks and branches. Sometimes we walked for hours to outrun it, but when we looked up it was still there.

     We wanted not just to see it, but to touch it. We were giant like dinosaurs. We were agile and light. The earth shook when we jumped and the wind took us like leaves.

     Mothers and fathers were scared of us. We were scared of them too. Our fears settled into us, grew in our organs and minds. We couldn’t stand it. We digested cognition, tore our own guts from our brains. We breathed fire in the night.

     Even bears were afraid of us then, we nipped at their heels as they escaped. We sang obscenities like love songs. We turned each other on. We pollinated flowers with our hissing, stood up on two legs and collapsed. We died as if we had caused it, then realized that everyone could die.

     We called out like wolves, but we weren’t wolves. We were hunted. We prayed like nuns, like mantis we struck. We lay dormant in holes, we camouflaged like so many things.

     In the winter, our skin thick and rough, we emerged. We were feline, we were ape. We invoked what spirits surrounded us. We rode like elephants and frowned like clowns. We smiled when we slept or screamed.

     We built cities to inhabit on leaves and tree branches. We swam below the ice to sunken ships and looted abandoned treasure. We wore it like queens. On the coldest nights we wrapped our old skins around us, we gathered beneath discarded pieces of our bodies. We breathed fire into our hands until they cooked.

     As we warmed, we multiplied like crumbs. We looked around and saw ourselves everywhere. We left nests in the trees, and let the wind take our young like seeds. We dug tunnels through our nightmares and forgot them.

     We were tiny. We looked up and saw that everything was huge. Birds picked up the leaves where our cities rested, and shook us off. We rebuilt them on the ground and found the bears unafraid of us. We were born like our children.

     We gummed our thoughts into paste and calked what cracks disturbed us. We drew lines like letters. Computers hummed like our stomachs. We ate as if we had never been human. We invented water as if there had never been water. We lived there.

 

///

 

ARISTOPHANES

 

Aristophanes-

     Aristo-

     I remember the cut, the split. I was not meant to remember, to know what was lost. I was not meant to hear that cracking when the spine split like a wishbone. When I broke.

     What is it to depend on the legs that balance your body? What is it to recognize the face you turn to see? To want these things back?

     I am looking for the lost pieces of my body. I am finding them in more places than you supposed.

     A hand I find attached to one. I pull it into me. From another’s chest I recognize a beating, a heart that echoes in the cavern of my ribcage. I press my ear to her chest.

     And in another, something I can’t take back or feel or hear. Mere familiarity haunts me, unexpectedly, when we meet.

     My hair was thicker, Aristophanes. Layers of it grow from another head now. But where?

     I remember the separation of skin, the rip and pull. I could count on myself, until then. I could expect my body to be there.

     I cannot rebuild myself without dissecting the bodies I meet. I cannot part with what they may want in return.

     What you never said was that our missing pieces may find themselves complete without us. That we may discover the lost vertebrae and then watch it settle into a new spine built up around it. Do I blast through the column then? Do I remove what was mine?

     Aristo-

     Aristophanes-

     I am only parts with parts missing. And I remember what it was like to be whole and not know it, and not need to. Then the cut, the tear, my body lost. And now I limp without those legs.

     Aristophanes.

 

 ///

 

MARCUS MADE OF CORAL
     
Marcus made of coral walks into the bar, sits on a stool, orders a drink. Marcus made of coral drinks his drink, thinks, water becomes a sea life. I am a sea life. Given enough time spent, I will be a sea life. I will be a rock-like organism.

     Marcus is negotiating time and space and the aims of the body. Marcus is asking his body to reimagine itself in a world free of context. Marcus is pressing on the muscles of a chest.

     Marcus thinks that if, figuratively, we take off our clothes and look at ourselves and identify points of similarity and points of difference and mark them in pencil (or in ink when pencil fails on skin) we will cease to recognize any point for what it is, we will forget what belongs to whom, we will stop seeing ourselves as part of the thing that we mark.

     Marcus walks into the bar with his body, asks his body to push his shoulder forward to appear that he is in control of the space. Marcus walks his body into the bar like he is in control of the space. Marcus tells his eyes to look forward and not down, Marcus picks up his body and holds it like he owns it.

     Earlier and later and even right now, Marcus struggles with the pronouns of living—I or you or she or he. Marcus settles on I except in moments of disagreement, of frustration, and then Marcus addresses YOU. Marcus says, “You can’t do this,” as he makes eye contact with a mirror when a mirror is around. Marcus says, “the darkness is a bear that you are in.” A greeting comes from the stool next to him. Marcus makes the effort to lift the right side of his grin.

     Marcus thinks, to walk to stretch to fall to curl to call out to fail to recognize to be influenced to be particular to unhinge to fold out to mask to manipulate to join to cohere to mutate to growl to be monstrous to be small to vanish to quell to return to remain.

     Marcus made of coral but inside, spool. Marcus made of coral and spool. What is this and when?

     Time allows it, eventually. Marcus made of coral and spool wraps his arms around the greeting that has made its way from the bar and now into his bed. Marcus greets the greeting, and is greeted again.

     Marcus made of coral hazards a guess. Marcus crawls back in space thinking, if this is real then time pauses on me. Marcus is a warship, a honeybee, the point of a stick, the flat of a shoe, a rock on the ocean floor, or an organism that grows from it.
     
——–

Sarah Tourjee is the author of the chapbook, Ghost, published by Anomalous Press. Her poetry and prose can be found in Quarterly West, Conjunctions, H_NGM_N, Anomalous, Gone Lawn, PANK, Wigleaf, & elsewhere. She lives online at sarahtourjee.wordpress.com and on land in Providence, RI.