SmokeLong Quarterly

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Story by Natalie DeClerck June 26, 2009

art by Robinson Accola

I sometimes hear sounds that remind me of times I’ve never had at places I’ve never been. A few choppy flashbacks to the Denmark Strait or the Appalachian Mountains. A far away beach where my feet felt cold in the sand. I looked up and saw the clear icy sky. I looked down and saw the feathers of a long dead gull, its beak buried in its wing. Sometimes these recollections seem so real that I can make them my own, without a rulebook catechism or a dead hero. And I know they’ll stay that way, like folded letters in a locked drawer. At least I’ll still have the memories when I’m told they’re not mine, at least I’ll still have the logical truth of an understanding, a belief. But real life’s unfair. I’ve never been to Iceland. I’m not getting any younger.

I sometimes lie half asleep in my winter coat and mittens. I sometimes scrape subconsciousness and decide I should be getting back home. Then I sit up in bed and rub my worried eyes. What I do know is that I feel better when I’m writing poems in my head, lines like dead doves killed by their own still peace, as I sit stationary by the window of a psychologist’s waiting room. It’s a funny feeling, like going to big business church on a Sunday morning and lobbying by the coffee and chatting over the candy coated cookies and do you prefer one packet or two and we all smile even if the brew is bad because don’t you know this is what your distant depressed aunt locked up in a New York City asylum doesn’t do? And then I hear the muffled echo of the organ, or maybe the flutter of a bird outside, and I remember. I can lie like that for many days, rolled up unused, routed and routined. I am film in a camera. My life won’t develop until I can really see the sky.

Well, it takes awhile to pick up from where I left off, whether it was a far away beach or a Northeast institution, and I’m suddenly back at home surrounded by a comforter and an itchy woolen coat and a grandma-knit scarf and ugly buttoned mittens. I’m heavy like faux fur under thick wet cotton, and I’m trapped there hopelessly, just looking for a place to thaw my toes. Being alone inside the sound took me farther from home than a hundred New Jersey turnpikes. I’d broken off my left wing and tried to fix it with a band-aid

Skies aside, nothing higher is truly universal. Skies all cry and we all cry too. Skies aside, we’re needy for absolution. We need to comfort our perverted skin, as if the clouds aren’t real enough. My brotherhe walks planks and calls them tight ropes. He buys Jesus for a stranger and calls it giving back. His hypocrite eye likes to fill with tears; hot tears to mold his mind, break in my wake, seek out cornerstones in circular rooms. They told him, “Preside here, where you are safe.” Inside an unlit bulb, a California kitchen dish soap bubble, an unattainable dream; behind the window the bird didn’t know about, and didn’t know about again. Clean. Until it breaks, shatters, and falls, like an icicle that murders the bird—the one the window wounded.

I know my brother. Well, I always said I did. I know he likes to feel found. I know that one day he might find out he’s lost. I know we’re both growing old, both trying to be heard, trying to be happy. I know how I vandalize him. I dog ear his pages, I criticize in his margins, I tear out what I don’t like. But maybe, I sometimes think to myself, I don’t know anything at all. Skies aside, we’re all searching for somewhere larger to go. We raise our heads and open our hands and hope real hard for the answer. We bow our heads and fold our hands and hope real hard for the answer. Skies aside, we haven’t seen much of anything for quite some time. And if something exists deeper than blue, then tell me, brother, where is the rain?

About the Author

Natalie DeClerck is a senior at Fremd High School in Palatine, Illinois. She plans to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign next year where she will major in English.

About the Artist

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.

This story appeared in Issue Twenty-Five of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-Five

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