Blackbox Manifold

Issue 13: E.G. Cunningham

from GALL

pole-vaulter through an open window is no punch-line. He’s my sweet sixteen. Hallway din. An argument over the phone bill. More light in the half-eaten egg in the fridge of clouds – who could say we were passing or that I was. Time blends with a bullet tip. Before the spike, before the iridescent outfits. Through the window, and tucked to mauve carpet, the screen mute along the outer wall. His heft no trigger, no telescoped exit. Before the barrel, before the keychain whistle. If the leap is always personal, always vaulted alone

red teenage said I’m not going. & went anyway. Into the basement with its glowsticks, its beanbags. & a looping song. & a long plastic tube snaking into an open mouth. At the party, fists struck tabletops & turned to palms. At the party, I remembered the first third after the fifth, after which a faraway music. One palm held my wrist. The other opened the door. When the lock turned I woke. When the morning broke I laid fist in mouth. The light crowded the corners, crowned the stranger’s propped-up surfboard. The bell inside me argued conqueror, deserter

social worker can’t trim the dream nor can she splice-patch the cells. Say it & fix it later works only in films. My mother’s not blood-spattered & I’m no Caroline—this salvage takes place in exurbia Florida. We’ve moved again: new stucco ceiling, new blindfolds. My bedroom walls: medicinal pink, with medicinal pink carpet. In the garage with the stranger’s face I won’t remember I sod the maybe facts. & the hum-drum details: high marks, yes. Dinners together, yes. I can’t say joy to the radio ad-lib or draw out the wordless covalence—instead, I Judas the newly-swept driveway in flip-flops, the sun over the lawn still heaving

new blindfolds. Tired in floral church anthems. Our family got better, but confusion is a dog in a locked cottage, the sun going west over violent intention. One year could mean five or we’re back in the kitchen. Or the curtains stay open. The fry arias the breakfasts the holiday brunches could summit alternate bruises. I know by the way we sat at the table, by her choked throat, his gin ammunition

the direct method faltered. Into the body. Doubt. Plumb from the body. Sleep recovers the scenes. Sixteen stretched three years. I looked across a sea of beige & bland & shards of glass. No one to deny or confirm anyway: the fake childhood stories, the chain gang in movies only. I re-map the unknowns. A sharp wool. A pair of scissors, a foreign stone. Figure cuts the light to horror mode. Memory planks & tills until fallow

E. G. Cunningham’s work has appeared in ĕm: a review of text and image, Breakwater Review, the Poetry Center of Chicago, and elsewhere. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is currently pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Georgia in Athens.