We present the following pairing of illustrations by Elise Powell and writings by Kayla Klepac.
What We Were Doing
We were made of oxymorons,
we were drinking store-bought moonshine.
We were learning the difference between
loving somebody and having a permanent hole
in your life for them. We were having a great time,
getting to that point in the night where we all said
I love you, but still wondering, Is it just me, or is everything
in ruins right now?
We looked for jobs as assistants and temps.
We were coming to America, we were going back
to France. We were flying to Thailand, we were
telling off-color jokes and telling our mothers we missed them
at long distance rates.
We were still mad at our friends who had killed themselves
and could finally say it.
We were trying to keep the cat from escaping
to the neighbor’s yard. We were getting married
and complimenting each other’s shirts
and having breakdowns, yelling at ghosts
and opening our lank arms to fellow yellers.
We were breaking our bones in motorcycle accidents
and wincing at the pop of fireworks
ever since being discharged. We’d been stolen from
but gave more away. We always came back home
and so many things were the same. We were afraid to be alone
and we were ready to move alone to Los Angeles, all glitter
and mustard gas sunsets. We didn’t pray but played with astrology.
We were quitting smoking again. We stopped starving ourselves,
broke bread and broke even. We cried on patios and in hallways
and over phone lines. We thought it would be more fun. We got
so strong that we didn’t know what could hurt anymore.
Then we found out. We were studying terminology, standing on
the occasional stage. We were delivering pizzas and babies.
We picketed and had panic attacks. We thought about inequality
several times a day. We fell and fell and still fell somewhere in the middle.
We ran from the suburbs but they chased us, nipping at our heels, and our old haunts hugged us like ex-girlfriends. We needed bail, we needed to know better
next time. We checked our bank accounts before meals
like some Christians say grace. We were writing albums and novels
and self-referential poems. We watched the clichés unfurl.
We were just kids, and then we weren’t anymore.
Plums and Plath
I thought I was under a porch light
telling him goodbye for the last time
but I was really under Sylvia Plath’s plum tree,
with each plum representing a life I could have chosen,
all of them ripening while I tried to decide on one,
falling from the branches to their place of decay.
One plum was a baby, a family
but I wasn’t hungry.
I was tired.
And then we woke up, at our Sunday best
with light letting itself in through the window.
As if the night before hadn’t turned into
a novel when you knew you couldn’t
keep wasting your time on me.
Life’s not long enough. You gave
back the silver watch I’d given you
and I stood bawling with the timepiece
in my hand. Most of the time
symbolism is a bad joke.
But forget it. Let’s cling
to a common piece of plywood
in the Titanic Atlantic.
Bide your time with me.
Kiss me until I’m no more than a raspberry seed
stuck in your back molar. Or don’t.
Some things are sweeter and juicier
when they’re already dying.
Unsustainable, like plums. Like Plath.
What a treat I must not be
these days, grumbling about the late harvest,
all withdrawal shakes and growing pains.
My fingers are green from the fake diamond rings
I took off when I took off with you.
Each day that the homeless man on 23rd street
says, “Angel you fell from heaven” it sounds
less like a compliment and more like a condolence.
You said it wouldn’t work
because you’re from the wrong side of the tracks.
But I was never on the right side.
I stay tied to them with my own rope
waiting for the train or someone to save me from it
indifferent until I hear the horn blaring
indifferent until I feel the gravel rattle.
The Chinese Zodiac Says We’re Incompatible
You’re a tiger, shining teeth and marked with warnings.
I’m a snake, graceful except when I kill more than I can
swallow, which is often.
We stalked each other from different sides of the animal kingdom,
met somewhere low in the grass.
I speak with a forked tongue but you’re quick enough to prey
on both meanings of each word, batting them with claws bared.
You let me coil around myself
as others walk by, rhymes known by heart
running through their heads: red and yellow kill a fellow.
You’re mercurial, lashing out
but then you hold me.
No one can slip out from under
your heavy paws
but a snake.
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Elise Powell is an illustrator from Austin, TX who in her work strives to push forward sex/body positive thinking & queer mindset & appreciation of cooperative living. She loves dancing and wants to promote bands through drawing forever.
Kayla Klepac is a writer based in Austin, TX. She’s been a journalist, blogger, and writer of educational materials, but her favorite thing to write is poetry about handsome men and good parties. Her spirit animal is the raccoon because she likes to dig through life’s garbage to find the shiny things.