When she woke up she put the coffee on and after she put the coffee on she poured that coffee into an enamel mug and tipped into it some milk and as it blossomed and bloomed inside the mug she drank it right down.
After the coffee she stood for a moment staring at the sun and went out to the porch to sweep but the boards began to creak so she walked across the yard and plucked a crow from the tree and unraveled that crow like a clementine and cooked its flesh in her mouth and then ate it.
When she finished the crow she repaired to the porch and spat nails from her mouth and the nails fixed the creaky boards. After that she swept for miles.
She sat down on the porch and prepared a lesson plan for the children about alchemy. She was preparing to argue that while alchemy was traditionally thought of as a way of transforming lesser metals into gold, could we not say that 1) gold is simply a thing that has great value; and also, 2) gold would be used to buy other things since the gold standard is the accepted standard of currency in these United States; and also, 3) would not the transformation of a cow into a steak be a form of alchemy? Would not the transformation of a boll of cotton into a fine cotton dress be a form of alchemy? She began to work on these thoughts in a way that mattered to her. Whether it was a lesson to be given was a thing that would come in time. Everything always did. Even him, in the moments when her eyelids closed heavy and her eyes rolled up back into her head, up in the corner where she’d placed his memory, out of the way so as not to get into things.
Everything in the world died that moment because it seemed a good time for that sort of thing and in the morning she opened the doors of her home to the ghosts of the dead for exactly one week.
When she opened her house to the dead here is what happened: she was sleeping, then as she was sleeping she noticed that the walls and floorboards were all being painted gray, then the paint dried and began to chip and as it chipped off it chipped off as parchment and one of the slips fell into her hands. It read: You are just lousy with the fact that the opposite of a sunset is not a sunrise it is in fact you and she thought to herself, Not only is that rude but I sincerely doubt its veracity, and as she thought this another note fell down. It said: The next time I saw him, he was removing a ghost from an old woman’s fingers using his tongue. It looked like spun cellophane and had the air of a county fair. They were outside of a bar on the sidewalk. She was sitting in a wrought iron chair and he had risen to his feet and was blocking the sun from his eyes using only his hand. He told her ghost AS LONG AS I HAVE TEETH I WILL BITE YOU AND WHEN I NO LONGER HAVE TEETH I WILL GUM YOU AND I WILL POUND AT YOU WITH MY FISTS AND KNOCK YOUR FACE IN WITH MY BOOTS WHICH ARE HEAVY, AND BLACK, AND NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH and then he did. I am not so certain this was intended for me, she said to the ceiling and, No, fell down, followed by: We haven’t talked to anyone in forever so I am going to apologize in advance for the things we have to say. Would you like me to leave? she said. Not really, is what fell next. On the ceiling was a chandelier made of bones and bed sheets all gilded with gold. If you thought that ghosts did not have either standards or the capacity for finer things then you probably weren’t actually thinking. She looked to the ceiling and saw its lights and what seemed like the memory of bed sheets acting as if they were trying to remember what fucking was, as though this was the reenactment of an idea a child had in a dream once. Don’t look back, fell down and, Well yes, is what she thought as she grabbed her mattress and slung it over her back and headed to the porch with a camp stove and a container of coffee and a pile of papers to take notes on the movements between her head and her heart. There were, it appeared, a series of marching orders being relayed that she felt she had best take some notice of. The notes from the ghosts of the dead had filled the floor to her ankles. In a few days she would open the windows and let the wind sweep it all away to burn up into the sunset, letters etching themselves onto the parts of us we keep trying to forget.
3. Notes, piled to the ceiling, left by ghosts
Stick to the promise that you made Wouldn’t spit on you if you was on fire As you will note, I have inscribed no address There is a mountain inside of me Once in town it started raining and then there was a flood Have you lost your friend in a fire have you bled from a tender spot let me tell you how I would bleed all over you if you’d just let me Can’t say that I have They don’t really love you they just look at you that way as a comfort There are things I have done to my eyes so that I can no longer see the way he looks at me There are things you have said to me that cannot be unsaid or undone and that is OK that is alright, not that it is OK or alright, but what else can we say about it? What else is there to really say about it? Go chew on a bullet if that’s how you feel Just make your mouth into a firework and light up the sky My heart is a landslide it will bury you and everything If you would just sink on down to the bottom of the river you could get to a truth few ever see is a thing that was said to me as I was held down and under and I cannot speak to such things as truth but I will say that he loves you in his own way We can talk about love in ways that would startle you That is just what everyone thinks though Down below the ground Did you know that we are the ghosts of everyone who has ever loved you? Did you know that we would really like a sandwich? Not even a good one Just a sandwich We can’t eat is another thing Not once Not ever You are a babe mountain is something I used to say to her in my head using my feelings I mean like an entire mountain made out of babes condensed into human form I mean that is the closest approximation to what it felt like I don’t like how the election turned out I don’t like how a lot of things turned out If only you’d loved me you could avoid all the things that will happen to you If only you’d’ve let me get you pregnant If only you’d noticed me Oh stop with all that Just stop Will she remember me though Does anyone remember carrots pulled from the earth fresh with dirt? Does anyone remember how a bullet tastes cooked up with butter in a pan because that is the last thing in the world you had left after your fingers and you needed those to cook the bullet? No? Maybe? I could be a fireworks display if you wanted if you wanted me to I could be anything at all and I know that that isn’t an answer that what we need to be is our own person is whatever it is that we really are because you can’t really love an idea because an idea is a thing that exists inside your head and not out in the world and I saw the world end I saw it erupt and be swallowed by a giant angry iceberg who said GET OUT OF THE WAY, APOCALYPSE, THIS PARTY IS NOT FOR YOU I mean I guess somebody’s invitation got lost in the mail the way our lives got lost in the ether We just want to watch the sunset But we don’t have any eyes Because we’re ghosts
4. A story about a house on a hill (in which the house is described; in which bandits enter the house and certain events occur that you would maybe not anticipate; in which we encounter a pinnacle of womanhood who once cut a part of herself off and buried it in the ceiling; in which the sheriff’s father has a possible investment that failed to mature)
Once upon a time there was a house on a hill and it looked almost exactly like you think it looks, if what you think it looks like is a small house made of raw wood that somehow always looks fresh cut and with great wide open windows. If we were the kind of people who cared about sunsets or the moon we’d remark upon the way that, from the house, you can see the moment when the stars realize they’re already dead and spell out their last will and testaments across the night sky with the desperation that comes with knowing you never had a chance.
But so I found this house one day, goes the sheriff’s father, and how I found it was I had struck out. I had felt lost. I was lost. I was lost in a town I’d lived in for all of what passed for all of my life and I had been out in the world as I knew it looking for a job that nobody had to offer me. There were men I’d known who had made for themselves their own work in the world the way some men can build for themselves a home out of so many raw pieces of lumber, but I was not that sort of man. I could never get the bearing right. I could never get it all to line up. And so I thought what I’d do is I’d just leave. I’d leave the things I knew and was tied to in hopes of finding something else, with the idea that this separation would force a new thing into me and from this thing I could cut enough lumber to build a life I could live in. Please forgive me for using metaphors, but I don’t know how else to say this while drinking. And so I was out in the world and I’d found this house.
I stood around for two days in the kitchen just standing there waiting for an idea to fall from the sky or the ceiling which is what the sky is indoors anyway and nothing. Nothing was what fell, just air and air and more air falling like that all over me. I had the feeling like the thing to do would be to go out and dig a hole and wait for the world to fall into that hole. Maybe then I’d be of some use while the wind whipped words around me that weren’t mine. That is an approximation of my visions that visited to me, and as I was wandering around the house in search of a shovel-like device to shovel out the earth so I could fall into it, then my face was covered up by something and I thought to myself, This is it boys, the sign you were waiting for, and on my face was a note that read: Stop that. Then another fell and it said: What boys you are the only other person here come on. And I will tell you that I stopped in my tracks right then and there, that I stopped dead in my tracks right then, right there, and laid myself out on the couch near the stove for making a fire to keep warm and heat up some things so they could be eaten. Another note fell on my face, asking: What is the story here anyway?
The story here anyway: Well as I said before I felt essentially as though there was no place for me in the world as I’d lived in it and since I was not composed in the manner of men who could build their own place in the world I thought I’d leave everything I knew in an attempt at setting out or setting myself apart or at least making a part for myself, if we were to look at the world as a sort of script. To write myself in, I guess. And more or less I just had no idea what was happening, or what to do, and was beset on all sides by doubt and fear and a general sense that I was a failure. The only way to solve it was to just decide to do something. OK and so? is what fell on my head next.
OK and so: And so I set out. I did something. And I noted no real change in the world as I perceived it and so decided to dig a hole and wait till something took me some place worthwhile. Just get on with it, said the next note. Please, said the following. I did smile a moment at that.
Getting on with it: Here I am, pretty much.
And that’s about how it stayed for the night. When I woke up there was a blanket of notes spelling out a story about the pinnacle of womanhood who once cut a part of herself off and buried that ghost of her heart in the ceiling.
5. A story about the pinnacle of womanhood who once cut a part of herself off and buried that ghost of her heart in the ceiling
Once there was a house and it was this house and it was built because of a story involving a princess and a dowry. The princess was in love. She was not a fool. She was not courting danger. She was not afraid of danger, but she did not exactly grow wet between the legs at that which seemed reckless for its own sake. Defiance was a means to an end, not a means to itself, but so. The princess had met the king of the bandits of these western United States in her and his youth. He was not masked then; he was never masked with her. This is not a metaphor and there are no flowers draping petals all over a bed. His mask was how people knew he was the bandit king. Upon its thick and sun-faded indigo was stitched in gold every bank and person he had ever robbed, and it was said that when blood was in the air a crown of it would halo over his head but this was somewhere between hearsay and reportage, which is to say it is a myth, but some of it, at any rate, is true. He had a way of drawing blood out of a body and into the air where it turned into something less than you’d have thought of it.
There is probably more to that story, but the end of it is that she sat down with her heart and they had a talk and it was agreed that she would take a part of her capacity for love, which was immense, and slice it off with a sharp knife and hide it away in the ceiling of this house to exist outside of her and her life and to live on in its own way as best it could. People came and went from the house in search of her and later of this bit of her love until such a time as it was completely forgotten the way certain things are completely forgotten in these United States.
One day a grip of bandits ganged into the house on the hill drawing their blood out of the air in a dance meant to call forth an idea far older and bolder than they and their stolen hearts would ever be and it didn’t work and they all sat around like that, except the one laying on the table like that, coughing up teeth beaten into gold all over their shirtfront until they were mountains, then the mountains fell apart and they broke out into the kind of song most people could never sing. This is when the coyotes come in.
So the coyotes burst through the doors, which had been open for years, and proceeded to swallow all the bandits. How they did it was one wolf leapt and swallowed a bandit and then another coyote swallowed another bandit and then another, then another. Four coyotes did that two times, then one leapt and swallowed the other and another coyote leapt and swallowed that coyote and the third coyote leapt straight out the window and tumbled down the hill, but the fourth coyote wolfed down the whole house and walked around the desert forever.
After this the hill the house had stood on stood up and hitched up its skirt and proceeded to get the fuck out of dodge. There is certainly more to this world than we can see, but that doesn’t mean we need to make a parade route of it.
Sasha Fletcher is author of the novella When All Our Days Are Numbered Marching Bands Will Fill the Streets & We Will Not Hear Them Because We Will Be Upstairs in the Clouds [mud luscious press, 2010] and several chapbooks of poetry, including the forthcoming dear gloria, dear madeline, dear siobhan, dear ethel, dear eloise, dear wendy, dear becky, dear lisa, dear liza, dear michelle, dear tamika, dear tanya, tonight [Big Lucks Books, 2014]. With Leigh Stein, he runs The Book Report Reading series.