Sneak Peek: an Excerpt from LEFT
LEFT is edited by Jackson Nieuwland and is the first publication from the budding We Are Babies press. As a whole, it feels strikingly original and refreshing. The anthology features work by predominantly emerging writers and visual artists, with a few big names thrown in for good measure -- from local poet Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle to translations by Man Booker winner Lydia Davis. The following is an excerpt from the collection.
I love you so much
that I puke up all my organs
I love you but I am always sickly.
You are too busy
to sit in a chair
and fall asleep by my bed.
I become very ugly
You fall in love with someone else.
I lose your key so
you get mad and kill me,
then you regret it but
not enough to kill yourself
(you are too scared and practical).
I tell you
I want to marry you
but we are guinea pigs
and the stress is too much.
In the seconds it takes you to respond
my heart beats its last thirty beats
and then I die.
I plant you and
grow several of you
on a tree
but you all hang lifeless
from the branches because I forgot
to give you an airhole
down there in the soil.
I eat all of you,
I get poisoned by your flesh.
You get lung cancer
so I smoke a pack a day
but I don’t get lung cancer.
I live forever.
It’s the same thing.
They say that in the land of milk and honey, the sky is always a pure kind of green. Out here in train country, the sky shifts from black to white with each rising day. We’ve heard about the atmospheric colors they have when the clouds speed off to make snow and ice, but we’ve never seen it here. The only thing reminding us of the vast distance above us is the steam lifting from a passing train.
Of course, most of us do our wrangling under the cover of night, anyway.
When a train first bursts off its tracks, it has a singularity of vision that would rival a charging bull. Every train I’ve ever known has wanted just one thing: towns. Trains slide through towns every day on their way from Semper to Field Bay, from Turk to Mission City without so much as a scratch. But when the train trackers get to analyzing a runaway’s path you’d better believe it’d been headed (in its own desperate, charging way) for the biggest clump of buildings it could find for a hundred miles.
If you spot a train when it’s first gone off its tracks, you won’t have much trouble pulling it in if you’ve got the strength. One tight loop around the locomotive can knock it on its side. It will never see you coming. One thing you’ll never want to do is lasso a train by the caboose. Nothing brings a train out of its tunnel vision faster than that. It’ll run you down before your horse has even dug in its heels.
Any train that isn’t caught straight away loses its blinders eventually. After it has thrown off its driver and started to pump coal on its own, its vision widens. Generally speaking, this is when trains head for the hills. Up among the trees, the fires in their engines go undetected for days.
Once a train has made it to the hills, you won’t see it streaking through the valley while the sky is white. Trains are known for their patience. They wait for the cover of night, pack as much steam into their boilers as they can, and make a break for it. That’s when we come in. By the time that first whistle sounds low and clear over the valley, we’ve already saddled up our horses.
Then it’s a matter of who spots them first. But don’t rush in there like a fool. You’ll need to know what kind of train you’re dealing with before you can pull it in. Not all trains keep to the same patterns. If you see a whole clutch of lights you’ve got a herd of passenger trains on your hands. Freight trains generally keep to themselves, but cattle cars and coal hoppers are extremely territorial. Never get in between two trains heading toward each other.
Don’t work against other wranglers who may cross your path. When you’re catching passenger trains, a couple of good wranglers working together can make for a quicker pull. You’d be better off working as a highwayman if you’re that worried about getting your share of the spoils, anyway. If you think of yourself as a solitary worker, well, that’s a different story. You might be suited for catching freighters after all.
Whatever the case, you’ll find your place here soon enough, just as long as you don’t go sniffing around after old folktales. Legend has it an old sleeper train’s been up there since the first tracks were laid over a hundred years ago. It never comes out of the hills any more. Some wranglers say they’ve seen an ancient acetylene lamp wrapping itself around the hill during the deepest part of the night, but I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock in that kind of magical thinking if I were you. The best trackers say a runaway has about a month to live once it’s made it to the hills, one year at most, before all its coal is burned up.
Blue webbing between your fingers.
Blue stemless wine glass.
Blue missionary position in between storm clouds and it is hard.
Blue stomachs the size of bigger stomachs.
Blue backs of knees.
Blue beer and then another and then another and then go home if you have one.
Blue dandelion fruit.
Blue mango skin against the roof of your mouth.
Blue loose leaf paper.
Blue freshman year spent stepping into her shadow footprints.
One person says, “But why is she always in love?” and another person wonders, “Yeah, why is she always in love?” and the next person wonders too, “This girl, is she always in love?”
Blue monday morning.
Blue dry flaky skin.
Blue rotting pier but our legs can walk on water too, follow me.
Blue-green ring around my finger.
Blue curtains covering January sky.
Blue tissue box turned inside out is still a blue tissue box except easier.
Blue matching shoulders.
Blue worn dentures.
Blue Atlantic Ocean and we laugh like it doesn’t even matter.
Blue Empire State Lady but you already knew her.
We thought it was possible to feel a body turn into a skeleton using only our feet against the dirt but nobody wanted to die first.
Blue beneath the dining room table and you know what? No I don’t.
Blue wet, hot and American in the summer.
Blue 8 a.m.
Blue tree graveyard as if you didn’t know faceless creatures have to die too.
Blue first person shooter arcade game.
Blue cocaine after midnight.
Blue fireworks reflecting in the scars on my cheeks.
Blue five day weekend.
Blue treading water.
Blue splashing milk as a metaphor for sharing your body with other bodies.
Don’t worry, no one has left, you just can’t see them anymore. Don’t bother trying to look. Your eyes are broken. Your hands won’t work. Land on all fours as hard as you can on your way down. Maybe the ground will tremor and they will all wake up. Maybe they’ve forgotten the deal has been called off. Don’t worry. Maybe ghosts are blue too. Maybe they move in reverse.