Cover 14

The Pair Operates Midwater and Bottom

Jessica Lee Richardson

The waves like sips unswallowed so spoken against the brick of the shore
swim slick and sand-soaked waving with praying sea oats. I bet a dollar
on the next boat being womanless. I inflict my imprint on a soul in heat
for its source. Some of the boats seem ghost driven, the steering sheer,
genderless as gods. This first they called “Just Air.” Or maybe, “Just
Aim.” It blurred. The next was a gem without a name. The third dragged
a dingy like a thought about rescue and I forgot it. Jersey’s skinny tail
quivers under the Delaware Bay and twists the ear of the first pig to cry.
The canopy silks my head. Clip a trigger warning on the rump of the world
and hand me my studs please. I gallivant a picturesque abhor. Let
my hand dangle from that rickety bridge, tell that troll his toll is his own
tongue and tell that captain his boat is a joke you are the breakage
that geodes wish crystals would ridge, the stream of your mother’s
last quiet thought

as light bathes the leaves in sun bonnets
I kick off, and the gate has to break for it to bow.

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The Superstructure is Forward or Midships

Who flung the syrup on the guest bed? Why is the port of chance packed
with rowboats? A girl expects some steamers. A little handkerchief waving.
Then again who is a girl around here. When I was ten I was thirty-five
now I have lost my age. I curl in the paragraph of your ribs. Lark calm.
The water is only a vinyl disk. Smart boys love the word disk as it pertains
to Borges, so I say it. The sky’s pocket folds over, unzipping a zap of ice pop
blue and I think the day is gray but it is not. What a mica glint in this muster.
What a mineral stare awake with you. Batter torn rutabagas roast in the toothy
broth of us. A sister in wait sleeps in step with a song I never heard the earth
wrung bells of. Wishboned by the track, a tract of toned legs Rockette kick
fans into the air. Soaking in the situational aplomb. Never was not a place
to pack the fortress in. My hands sausage in the reflection of the sink spout
as I wash and wash in awe of the fleshy twigs. In a reverent asterisk you told
me my fate, three lines down and a greater than sign later I reversed it.
Eight times the page has been rewritten

and in all that time there has been no mail.
I send a telegram to the forgers, it sings.

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Pelagic with Pumps

I am impossibly quenched. Yet I river down into my groin sixty seven times
a day to stop the tremoring grab of my disgust and my lust, who like boats,
do not know each other’s names. I am well but for the clench. For how
the mind will vibrate with itself when it means to swim. I am a paramour
says a rust chunked mirror. Each fiber of me was in some world back
rewound to the rebel setting. I search for an egret on the waterway
to redeem me, but today is all uninterrupted blue and condos. There is
nothing to be sad about. Though my grandmother peeled out of her
last day and I was not there to spoon her the pots de crème she never had.
She floated above our Christmases. I am made of what she knew. A cluster of
small lights signal to the sky the water knows it. What a terror it is to be known
and it’s all we want. Now and then an egret, a letter, an electric napkin. That is,
a napkin that says electric on it and so is a sign when wet. If my heart
becomes too dough bright and soft as a lake will I find myself pregnant
and constitutionally adrift? Me and the waterbears eternal with a now
stretching taught over the whole neighborhood.

A turtle burrows and there is a consolation goose.
Art comes from cheating as art comes from a trawler.

Jessica Lee Richardson’s short story collection, It Had Been Planned and There Were Guides (FC2, 2015), won the Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize and was longlisted for a PEN/Robert W. Bingham award in 2016. Stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Collagist, Posit, Slice and other places. More can be found at