Introducing New SD Writer Ann Wuehler “His Taste

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HIS TASTE Ann Wuehler

Awash in clowns, I remember bits of him
in quiet fragments of the day.
How the stairwell hid us
and revealed our lust
to each other
like a good clean thing.
And his taste, his taste, his taste
and the slip of that skin, his skin
beneath the delighted surface
of each of my palms.
How I stumbled beside him
in the tired reaches
of early morning
without guilt or shame,
as we parted,
as we let go.
The tide smothers me
in clowns and mimes,
reminding me
I should bow my head
and pray to stern men
for forgiveness.
No thank you.
I am done asking
forgiveness
for what I
cannot regret.

Her work can be view at Ann Wuehler.

[A native Oregonian with ambitions and apparently a need to see more of the planet than a few feet beyond her back yard. I received my BA in Theatre from Eastern Oregon University and my MFA in Playwriting from the University of Nevada/Las Vegas. My Oregon Gothic was published in 2015 and my House on Clark Boulevard was published September of 2017. My newest novel, Aftermath, should be out, oh, soonish. I had an evening of plays this September with the Ilkley Playhouse in the UK. Bunny Slipper, a short story, was published in Whistle Pig this fall. The Moth and the Whale was published January 2019 in A Door is a Jar. My poem, My Feet Hurt, will be in The Rumpus. I am also co-writing a screenplay based on a short story from my Oregon Gothic, with the filmmaker who just finished filming a short feature of my play, Traces of Memory.]

SD Short Story Contest Finalist: The Chasm – Stephanie Clark

The chasm

His hands shake, trembling on fragments of the cool autumn breeze, but the subtle quiver of his upper lip says it’s nothing to do with the dropping temperatures.  Darting eyes, wide with anger and resentment, seek out a place to rest themselves but spy only treason and heartbreak. Pressing in on the periphery, memories of the street compound him and compress against his ribcage.

The gnarled apple tree on the unruly lawn, long barren and withered, is scratched and carved with the sounds of his youth – of unrestrained laughter and broken bones. Below the dying branches that continue to reach for God, a chipped mailbox stands, flag demurely flush against the wood. The red plastic flag had once pressed neatly against his lower vertebrae during his first kiss. Under his feet, now cramped with aimlessness, lay a universe of small stones. Each pebble perfectly round until, during a fall from a bicycle, cheek skinned against the asphalt, the eyes can spot the fissures in each stone that absorb a single drop of blood. He kicks the loose rocks, sending ancient helixes scattering across the street.

Through lacey curtains, a neighbour peers. She spots him, frozen at the end of the driveway his feet shuffling on the edge of suburbia. Her house is warm and yellowed, heated by an electric fireplace that dances meticulously in the exact same pattern- repeating, repeating. She cannot handle something as misaligned as a wood fire. Behind her the house groans with safety, with perfect lines and counted threads in all her sheets. But across the yawning chasm of the street, she spots a galaxy of scars and pricks that have tinted the man’s left arm to the hue of gluttony, of loneliness. There are no straight lines there – a cosmos of chaos and black holes. A tug in the lining of her stomach tries to draw her eyes away, the metered ruler of consciousness, but her curiosity is morbid. His clothes are loose, held together by gravity and bone marrow, resting on the sharp and crooked angles of his jutting elbows and collarbones.  In the light of the coming evening, a shadow clings to his hollowed clavicle.  She watches it shift, writhe; the absence of light dances a waltz, beat by the percussions of the thudding chambers and resounding valves.

The neighbour mentally tugs at the seams of the man outside, gently at first.  Each thread is wound tightly in her mind between memories and judgements. She pulls lint off a thin golden string. Unknots a thick tangle of brusque and prickly burlap. Lets a thin shard of satin fall to the floor. She pulls him apart, from his childhood to the waif in front of the home of his youth, unravelling the life that always was.  She watches him twist and strain his neck, unsure if he should turn around or step off the curb into oblivion.

The space between him and her is infinite. She is close enough to peel away the layers of coarse clothing, to slough off bruised memories, but the air that separates them is thick with prejudice. She sees his body, fallen and pitiful; she mutters to the empty room about shame for his father. She sees the ochre staining his cheeks and clinging to the sagging skin; she draws air through her clenched teeth, tutting to the window frame.  She cannot see the clefts that have drawn themselves on his heart; even were she to be pressing her upturned nose to his, she could not see the depths of his pupils. Could she lift herself up on the tips of her toes, could she let everything fall away, she would see the rim of the pupil – lush green forests surrounding the edge of eternity, waterfalls pouring into chasms of memories. She would glimpse at the bottom the fading faces of those who shaped him, glimmering words of paternal advice, memories that fade and fracture. Could she let herself listen deeper into the man before her, swaying, in the stillness between heartbeats – that pertinent moment where life hangs in the balance – she would hear the deafening sound of a father’s whisper; ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ And the splintering, the shattering of a son.

Her breath fogs up the glass, obscuring him from view. For a brief moment, his shape is soft, his peninsular bones melt together. She turns away from it all, from his loneliness, from his abandonment, and sets her sights on the mug of tea sitting on the table. A skin has formed, the milk clinging to the edge of the stained porcelain cup. A clock chimes gently in the warm, heavy air – as it has on every afternoon that she has lived in the house.

His hands shake; the street before him, paved from his youth, has never seemed so foreign. He hesitated, wanting to climb the apple tree one more time, to press his spine against the firm mailbox before the very molecules in the air change. With a single step, he watches the world he knew, the memories he cherished, pour over him and dissolve into the parched earth.


Stephanie Clark has been a freelance writer for over eight years. She finds her passion in the pause one takes when looking for the right word.

Foundations – Jimmi Campkin

Foundations

I salute the trees.  I am not magnificent but I can see everything grow.  I hear the grass chattering and laughing.  I stare at the oaks as they stretch like old hungover drunks after a binge.

Kicking my way through an old memory, I sit down on a bench and watch a young mother playing with her child – she lets go of the kid’s shoulders and this little fat bundle of limbs wobbles and trundles into a loving pair of arms.  I light a cigarette and look over their heads towards a crumbling brick wall where I came in thirty seven seconds – a gloriously brief but exhilarating moment of savagery that left me needing three stitches in my shoulder thanks to the razor sharp teeth of an utterly destructive angel.  For five nights afterwards, I would lift my head from my pillow and find one of her brunette hairs lying next to me, either tangled up in my own or left as some kind of spiritual offering.  I didn’t wash until my sheets left an imprint of my twisting torso.

In the cold the hot ash lights up my eyebrows, and I feel the smoke rumble down inside me.  I am just a stranger now, in a place where we left so many imprints that we wrote in a language too complex for future generations to understand; or too simple.  Perhaps everything just moves on from our messages, our little totems to what a future could be – liberal, relentless in our pursuit of sensations, dogmatic in our chasing of the wind and of love, emphatic in our use of drugs and alcohol but sensitive in our presentation.  I remember walking a five block diversion to avoid following a nervous young lad, who kept looking over his shoulder at the wasted behemoth shambling and crashing behind him as our paths continued.  It only took a bottle of whiskey to give me a night so intense I could drink the stars, and yet leave an impression on this youth that I was somehow a danger to him rather than a revelation… or more probably a self-indulgent indifference.

When I close my eyes the world turns black and white and I see, like a filter, what was once and is no more.  I recognise footprints in grass that has since been cut and mown a thousand times, because I can still lay down and hear the echoes in the soil and the worms gossiping about the underwear we flung high into the canopy of the trees – bras, panties and boxers like flags on the backs of warships.  I remember warming my hands inside your cunt and you gripped my stiff cock like a hot chip as our breath mingled under a trillion years of entropy.  Under the Milky Way you promised that we would remember this moment for the rest of our lives.

I wonder.  I remember this moment but I don’t know where you are now.  I don’t know what you think or what you feel.  I don’t know whether you sit on this bench, look at that wall and remember sinking your teeth deep into my shoulder enough to dribble my blood down your chin.  I don’t know if you remember my cold fingers deep inside you or whether you see the footprints through the filter.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter.  Perhaps you are focused instead on better things, more important things.  Perhaps you are this mother, focused so intently on her little baby as it shuffles through the grass desperately trying to maintain its balance long enough to be embraced tight.  Maybe you look to the light in someone else’s eyes rather than to the light above us, as it shines down on our best and worst crimes.


Jimmi Campkin is a “Writer, photographer, creator of SANCTUARY. 16bit child, INFP with clinical nostalgia and red wine for blood.” You can enjoy more of his work at jimmi campkin.com

Wasps – Jimmi Campkin

From Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective, available on Amazon


Open up my skull and you will find her inside, in a tatty striped dress and muddy Doc Martens.  Every bedroom, every hotel room, every airport lounge, train and coach I sleep in she is there, smiling and licking razor blades.  When I shower I look into the steamed mirror and see a pair of blue eyes staring back at me.  Neither of these eyes belong to my partner.  She is still there, with a red flowing tongue and a black choker.

This is no guardian angel.  She is guilt and sex and violence, with greasy hair and furry teeth – not brushed since her last remembered birthday and she always forgets her anniversaries.  Years later, lying in bed next to my partner, ‘the woman I love’, I wait until I hear gentle snoring before I rest my head on the pillow and close my eyes.  I know that I talk in my sleep, and all I think about is Her, with a mouth full of blood and bacteria.  In my lucid dreams I feel the hairs on my face lift to receive that sour taste.  I feel my pupils expand, opening like bank vault doors to a secret code.

As teenagers together, she took me to her secret place – a single tree in a circle of thick thorn bushes.  Like a ballerina she danced up to a noose tied to a low branch, launched her head inside like a basketball three-pointer and thrashed – piss streaming like river deltas down her soiled, writhing legs as I watched, frozen in a moment of incredulous horror.  After a few moments she lowered herself down and her barefoot heels touched terra firma.

She stood before me, at her full height, the rope now slack at her shoulders.  There was no danger, it was all a game.  Removing the noose, she walked towards me.  You never even tried to save me she smiled, and kissed me hard.  It tasted disgusting.  And then she kneed me firmly in the groin.

I sank to my haunches; coughing and farting, with a stomach ache billowing through my insides.  Looking down at the floor I saw brown leaves, dead twigs and ten toes with ten filthy toenails.  I thought to myself; I wonder if my tongue could clean these grey stumps?  A few minutes later, I knew the answer….


Jimmi Campkin is a “Writer, photographer, creator of SANCTUARY. 16bit child, INFP with clinical nostalgia and red wine for blood.” You can enjoy more of his work at jimmi campkin.com

This is how I Think of you now- Georgia Park

The funeral procession that blocks my line of traffic
on a sunday morning is easy to dismiss
until i start thinking,
maybe it’s you they’re carrying

 
I live right by an Irish funeral home
I see people dressed in black
coming out of it on occasion
and I look to see
if they’re your friends
I look for any spark
of recognition

 
How long has it been
i wonder
since you were dead to me
i do the math
that part is easy

 
but then i get to wondering
how happy or sad
it would make me
and the line of traffic
might as well be on a weekday
for how much it disrupts me


Georgia Park is the creator of Private Bad Thoughts, curator of Whisper and the Roar a feminist literary collective, and a writer for Sudden Denouement. She is a wonderful poet with an enormous heart. We can’t imagine this journey without her. Please check out more of her wonderful work.