Rigorous
Volume Three, Issue 4



Paulna Valbrun


Inertia

I entangle my limbs
with the metal bars
of the merry-go-round.
In my neighborhood
there is a strange mix of
fresh baked sweet potato pies,
reverberations of gunshots,
and screams from children
happy to play outside.

In my park, the smell of fresh cut grass
makes my skin itch, but also reminds me
I am alive, and so are you, except
Your merry-go-around is a carousel in Paris.
Ornate decorations outline golden columns.
Wooden carved horses bob up
 and down to the rhythm
 of circus music, at a price
Of two euros. Bakeries line every corner
offering fresh baguettes or croissants. Sometimes
the horizon is full of banners protesting
the state of things, but that is only sometimes.

On my playground there is
only one working swing
that we fight over.
Its chains are rusting
and with each launch into the air--
the wind massages my cheeks and
knocks out barretts and ribbons--
 I know that our joy will be limited.
 One day that chain will snap too,
just as the merry-go-round comes to a standstill,
screeching, but not before leaving bits of lead paint
 under someone's fingernails, and catapulting
 me into space and then onto wood chips.
Mid-air, and just for a second,
I consider the outcome of my landing.
Will my fall be soft and cushioned?
Or will I land on my wrist,
fracturing it in two places?




If cutlery could speak they would beg for help.

With uncanny poise, he opens the kitchen cabinet where he hordes the ketchup, mustard, soy and hot sauce packets.His hands are shaking, but that’s just his nerves. He says they're not in here either with his back still facing me. I say that I’m sure you’ll find them. I let those words sit with me, until I can accept that I am his number one traitor. Or perhaps, if I allow myself liberties, the euphemism describing my relation to him would more accurately be enabler.The air conditioning is turned up so high my throat is dry and cracking. Sitting on his sofa, I cross my legs hoping to somehow stretch out my hip that has tightened after walking miles in a circle. Walking miles, circling redemption, but only finding guilt as a strange kind of salvation. Now he’s opening two or three cabinets at a time. He slams each one with disappointment that it doesn’t shatter. I jump each time, worried that he can see me. I uncross my legs and start looking at my phone. Reality is a nightmare.

In better days you told me we weren’t meant for this world. Meaning? I asked. You said:The world is too much for people like us. Clarification would have been nice but I can already fill in the blanks, the unsaid, with the years of watching a man.
A man in constant mourning for those suffering even his enemies. Here compassion is not rewarded. Empaths are victimized and then victimized again for being victims. The taunting I’ve watched for years: you trying to make sense of what it means to be a man in this world, where masculinity is in opposition with humanity.

I wanted to tell you something on that day as you slammed cabinets, that even if you found what you thought you were looking for, you will never get what you want. There is no escaping that the world is on fire. Knowing is no longer a secret between us. And that is why I don’t know how to tell you: you don’t need to focus, they’ve imprisoned you with their poison. Instead of battling chaos, and therefore this celestial body, I try to imagine what our planet would look like if we weren’t meant for this world. Lapis-lazuli would be the color, but that’s as far as I get. You slam another cabinet.Knives, forks, spoons and bottle openers rattle violently. If cutlery could speak they would beg for help. Fuck.


"If cutlery could speak they would beg for help." was previously published at In Parentheses Mag.



Paulna Valbrun: "I am a writer, graduate student and instructor for first year english at the University of New Hampshire. My work has been published by the Roundtable of Karen House Catholic Worker and All the Art St. Louis."




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