Sleeping Fish Xi

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Julie Reverb

It became clear that if I was half the woman I wasn’t we would not have needed to throw more bodies overboard. My neurons wouldn’t flinch in their pit stops, and I would not have had to squat naked on a kitchen chair in the dark repeating ‘the’ into the darkness, until it meant nothing and nothing hurt anymore.

Maybe it was my cracked form—its last gasp, ill-thought-out angles—that lent the incontinence weighing down every grope, like those stretched earlobes and necks you see in a vomity waiting room magazine, the bad news swilling in your looser regions.

Everyone does their damndest to fall apart. The coffin’s first sighting is designed to floor and you must hold your mother up. The doctor winks at the x behind your head while you cowboy stance and wonder if he ever gets hard. ‘Squeeze the life out of it,’ I wanted to say.

Whatever happens, nothing will be as bad as shit crawling up through your mouth as you stab your aorta accusingly. The receptionist rivals Anubis in her sussing. Breathing in won’t help. Your outstretched blinking fists keep forgetting but the ache is indented and fondleable. ‘You’ve got something on your face.’

My dimpled skull, and yours, had seethed against stains you said your sister wouldn‘t see. I regret not offering to power the street’s nightly numbing or heat their bath water. I regret not feeling able to carry, to righteously censer-swing my skull below, where I knew fluids were reacquainting.

My bungalow youth and an Eiffel Tower freeze, during which I decided one downward step would snap me like a wishbone, held me on the unlit stair. I crouched and folded; a trodden napkin swan at a wedding. Balls slapping mixed with that line in Away In A Manger that can be used to stun cattle or the elderly before throats are seamlessly sluiced. A privatised gesture in the smallest print.

I am safe here, but from here it can only ever be downhill. He holds her in the kitchen while my orangutan fingers grip wallpaper grooves that aren‘t there. Mafia dons direct lying finger nail prisings elsewhere. My slapdash skin ums and ahs, overbiting itself aimlessly into the Turin Shroud carpet. I stay unseen, sewn out of still life into nothingness. Leaden breaths spur on my nothingy pawings’ halting.

I linger, webbed, during first dances, domestics, other signposts smiled on with bloodied teeth. I grit until there’s nothing left. I brandish my stubs. I lift with my back. A tiny boot on the side of a motorway, a porn mag in a hedgerow. Things not seen again. They won’t need to paint smiles on your parents’ death-masks. Toothless Havisham is down the docks noshing for kicks, her waxwork arse moon-lit.

Julie Reverb

Julie Reverb is a London-based torch singer turned writer.

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