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It has already
Been a long cold winter
Of the soul
For many of us
The losses large
The future uncertain
We are often
Filled with fear, with unease
My own mood
Has given me a severe
Case of vertigo
Than the weather
Low and then lower then lower still
Even I tire
Of the volume
I have written
About endless tears
About walking in the twilight
My mood is a suit that does
Not quite fit my body
Or fit my soul
And yet. . .
And yet. . .
There are lights in the
Bright shining souls
May dim from time…
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Jasper Kerkau Love of a Child (originally published on September 5, 2016)
“I…I…I LOVE YOU.”
My daughter, three, stutters, tries to spit it out. I spin and shame away; my sins tied to her tongue. My failures are wrapped up in her tiny face with purified smile. The cosmos spin and whirl as thousands of years descend into the sea; speck in the eye of angry gods, artifacts of which are dug out of thick jungles. None of it makes any fucking sense, nor does any of it really matter when compared to the only pure thing my heart has touched: the love of a child.
A ticklish, deep belly laugh fights back my maniacal demons of selfish dread and existential buffoonery. You are the only thing I will ever do that matters. She grabs her cartoon dog, and scuttles away; I hear the tiny feet on family floor. I think of the face that turns the lights of my world on with a sweet smile being shattered by a frigid world with myriad ticks and idiosyncrasies created by my failed unions and bad genes yoked to fifteen hundred years of ancestral transgression. We all pay for the same sins, the failures, and shocks of adolescent daydreams, shattered by the screams and hollering of incompatibility and selfishness, in-your-face grit that sends children to school whispering in brown paper bags, drinking milk, making excuses for daddy’s nuanced approach to living: hiding under house, buried in robe and slippers, set out for last time in familial duty.
My daughter will shine like the sun and shed the innocent stutter of her third year. She will bear my cross, find god and lose him on a hunch as the realities of life crash into her with Mesopotamian creation myths and nuanced, Huxleyan logic. She will follow her own trail back looking for meaning, discovering my humanity in my secrets—tragic mistruths, boxes containing irrelevant photos and distorted scribbles. Like me, she will find my uncle’s curious notebook tracing lineage back to Battle of Hastings and find her history is the folly of meaningless people: centuries of laborers and peasants, dying one after the other in a succession of triviality. I am no different.
The only real truth is the one that is manifested in the inherent drive to seek truth, bear a seed and proliferate the cycle, spending eternity wringing hands, worrying over a child with heart breaking for all the pain in the world and that which will be hoisted upon them.
I pick her up as she jumps up and down, squealing as I walk through the door. My heart leaps. My faith in humanity is restored. She will walk the earth and be better than me and that, in itself, justifies all the sadness, all the gut-devouring loneliness, the fickle meanness, the struggle to find something in nothing and restoration that takes place when she cycles through the void and finds the real meaning herself in the eyes of her own child.
Nothing That I Want – Sperantia Zavala (Revisited)
His left eye sags a little, but I do not get the impression he is doing what caused that anymore. I do not know when all of it happened, or stopped, or if perhaps, on some level, it still continues. He always smells of stale cigarettes with a faint scent of last night’s beer. His face looks hard, and he is too skinny. Scary skinny, but I cannot pinpoint what is wrong exactly. You never know the truth with him; it is always impossible to get a straight answer. Could it merely be the years of alcoholism, cigarettes, and drugs? Or, is there something fatally wrong with his health after all the years of abuse? When I see him I want to shout at the top of my lungs: “Dear lord you need to go to the fucking doctor, you need a physical, something is wrong with your health. I will take you. Let’s go now!” But, none of that happens, it never will.
He turned 44 on Sunday, and he resembles the worst version of himself. Underneath all the pain, I see the tall, handsome man with olive green eyes I once loved with all my heart. To this day I see it, but I do not feel it. I still love him like you love your family or an old friend. The kind of love that desires the best for another human being’s soul. While at the same time, I feel nothing—no hurt, resentment, betrayal, or disappointment. My forgiveness was granted years and years ago for the misplaced loyalty, poor decisions, and blind choices. The emotions I feel can only be described as—vacant, or numb. Perhaps, I even feel a slight relief, resembling a dark private miracle, as if in a “ninja girl’s got killer moves” way, I dodged a bullet to the head. Thoughts of him will always remind me of too many tattoos, too many curse words, punk rock music a little too loud, a pack of Camel lights, and a twelve pack of beer. I hear an old Johnny Cash song playing in the background on a beautiful fall day with all the windows open and the perfect breeze flowing through our old house. I see these images in my mind, as a cool retro oil painting exuding canny creativity, deep heartbreak, and a splintery suffering, a kind of misfortune and hardship that not many I know can relate to or will ever have a necessity in their life to understand.
I do not see him often, yet when I do, after all this time, he still calls me honey but usually a snide remark is not too far to follow. I try not to let the off-color comments bother me, because I know deep down he is not a happy man. He holds the qualities of a hard-worker, someone you would describe as a real handy man. One of those mechanically inclined types who can build and fix anything; there is nothing he cannot do, and very well at that. I express all of those useful qualities, but feel it is noteworthy to interject: although he is capable of good, his deluded mind operates with several loose screws. It is hard to comprehend there was once a day I wanted to share my life with him, hoped he was capable of being a real father, thought over the years we would grow old together—as a family. Holidays, vacations, memories, those dreams were long gone over ten years ago; we had none of that together as a family. I lost everything my heart ached for; this truth stings like salt in a cut on your finger. In reality, he was never capable of what I wanted. That is simply not who he was when we were together—or who he will ever be; I wish I saw the truth then. I wish I knew then what I know now. Oh, how I wish. I think we all wish for something different from the past, but those pointless emotions are capable of changing nothing.
He was everything I wanted at the blind age of twenty-four, and he held all my trust. For eight years following the day I met him, his faithfulness was never a question in my mind. So much older now, it is a little frightening to come to the harsh, yet sad, reality that trust is a slippery slope. Like a light switch turning off, it happened swiftly; he instantly became, and ten years later still is, nothing that I want.
By Sperantia Zavala
Sudden Denouement Literary Collective
Unrequited (originally published on Secret First Draft September 9, 2016)
Not a speck of light-
vomit on the floor
soft red mixes with water
Pushing away, feel of
cold ceramic tile
Jasper Kerkau is editor and writer for Sudden Denouement and The Writings of Jasper Kerkau.
Can’t (originally published August 30, 2016)
Can’t sleep lately. Everything’s too bright. I’m not used to serenity; I am comfortable in the moss, under a rock, in the onyx flames of ill repute. Where light burns black with a perfect pitch, a neglected bastardized stinging glitch, oily but warm. Someone came along and snuffed the blackness. It’s too bright in this room. I want to go back to sleep, but not for as long as I will if I do.
Can’t breathe lately. The air’s too clean. Septic breath of a lurid death is what I crave. Putrid stench, nostalgic days. Comfort food like mom used to make, wasp nest chili and seaweed pizza. The old familiar sting of glass in broken nostrils, coppery fragrant like dead wood. Stink of shit and honeysuckle. But someone came along and brought fresh flowers with them. Not the offensive ones; the gorgeous odor of peace. And they make me uneasy.
Can’t talk lately. Not much to berate. I was a stuttering forlorn chicken in a filthy cage, squawking frothing castrated rage. But someone came along with lozenges. Nothing left to scratch and bark. I’m afraid of silence. I’m afraid of mellow golden diatribes, the lack of violence. What happened to screaming at a wall? You’re safe inside, and you know it. And I can’t get to you, and you know I regret it.
Can’t love lately. It’s a stagnant slab of cheery smiles, a vagrant loft of airy lies, laid out before me. Everyone is happy. Let’s all be sociable. Let’s dance with other people’s wives to bubblegum pop, not too close. Leave a void between, the façade of trust and happiness. The empty spaces where attraction used to fit. Deceit, defeat, unseat, complete. Treat me to a stabbing orgasm of penile snap. What the fuck is this trust shit.
Can’t die lately. And it’s making me uncomfortable.