by C. S. E. Cooney

For Sam

It is in a corner he kills me
Comes slashing, thin and silent
With his big, flat-bladed hands
Afterwards, he dumps me in a bathtub
In a clown car pulled by elephants
He ignores the hearse

Before that, in the forest -- by the picnic tables
He feeds me purple fruit, savory fowl, dried apricot
Has me fetch his guitar I cannot play
"Play!" he commands
And I do -- a free étude in E

By the carousel of dolls, then
I think I’m done for
But the souls of dead children stymie him
He stays his hand

"Look up," he says. "This is where
"Mannequins go when they die."
The ladies hang, a whole battalion
Valkyries of the 70's -- one is bearded
They all have wings

A thousand times he might have murdered me
But the Methuselah pills in the apothecary
Induce in him a melancholy

"No one tries anymore," he sighs
"Commercials made for crack babies," I concur
"We should move on."
"You first."

The whale is wide as a rocket ship
We sprawl beneath it, watching
The great squid, the shattered canoe
A ramp leads up to ever more scrimshaw
Ships built inside bottles
Polar bears

Ascending, he is Mack the Knife
Descending, a colt

At the tip of infinity, he treads lightly
But our glass casket sways
A needle in space
The hills unroll, close and warm; I smell like wilderness
We always linger longer than the others
Move slower
Often the exhiliration
Dizzies me

The Red Room is full of secret cymbals
The chandelier trembles, the walls wheeze
There is a ghost in this machine
My killer conducts (claws on the right hand, clipped on the left)
I lean against a wall
Allowing tired phantoms
To fulfill their ambitions
In my fear

I teach him this word: Commorient He looks thoughtful

Rows and rows of little houses
I lose him once, stumble solitary
Through empty cities
An awkward giantess, fleeing to her foe
He awaits, tucked away
Full of fell intent
"Tabletop miniatures aren’t my thing," he says
By way of cheering me
I cling to him until I can recover

The old doughnut in the diner, the ancient eggs
Turn my stomach
Inside a frame, a clipping of the Twin Towers, aflame
These are things I never need to see again
These are things I already remember

He comes upon the Four Horsemen
As old friends at a party:
"I should have known to find you here!"
But after the niceties --
Greeting Famine by name, pointing out War’s peculiarities
Complimenting Death on his choice of filly, and Oh, Pestilence
What a macabre collection of limbs!
-- we walk on
Through fawns and saints and shrieking horses
Through battle and blunderbuss and crown jewels

How many times do I die today?
In the bathroom, with the ceiling carpeted in green
On the fainting couch, by the large blue urn
At each calliope, the brass bed (and talk of binding)
The glare of 20,000 lights --
In the Japanese gardens among the water lilies

Later, when I am sated, slain
Ready for an end to my glorious day
He plays Wagner's Ring, the first two scenes
We discuss what gods will or will not do
Family matters, you see, a matter of familiarity

"Look!" I cry. "Is that the Moon?
How it rises, red and huge --
Like it did last winter, when we romped together
When I fell into the snow
And you vowed you would not follow."

Trust him
To arrange the moon.

C.S.E. Cooney's prose and poetry have appeared in The Book of Dead Things and Hell in the Heartland anthologies, in Subterranean Press, Goblin Fruit, Killer Works, Tales from the Dim Unknown and Spiderwords. She was featured poet in Doorways Magazine's Spring 2008 issue, and her story "Helkappe" will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Aberrant Dreams.

If C.S.E. Cooney were a mask, she would be Venetian. She would be glass. She would sparkle like a diamond dagger and distort the wearer beautifully.

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