Image: Elena Kalis
Image: Elena Kalis

Aura Girl, No. 15

Last night my friend gave me a capsule of fish hooks from the 1930’s.

There’s a cellar in a farm house somewhere in New Mexico.

There’s a land in her hand as she opens it to me,

Stars, she said.

Tell me anything you can remember.


See these stars? See these
Stars in my hand? See
These stars. SEE?

The girl in the field swirls
Twirls herself dizzy till she
Falls down, laughing.

I help her up, take her
To the river, wash her
Body clean. See? She says

And suddenly, there’s a river
Suddenly, there’s everything
We ever needed. She tells me

To tell her anything
I can remember.


Stop, stop the singing, stop.
Why? She says, lifts her dress.
I’m feeling funny, I say.
I got the skin-blossoms to grow.
The fish like to lick me, she says.


My great grandfather built a farm house somewhere in New Mexico. In the cellar, his fish hooks. Fingered them as a child. Wide-awake from coffee and last night’s fall of whiskey.


See how the river appears out of nowhere, the girl says.
Yes. I don’t know how it happens.
Me talking to you.
You waitin’ for the man by the East gate?
Suppose so.
I think the fish like words.
Why’s that?
They lick my skin-blossoms. You want one?
One of what?
Skin blossoms.
No. Don’t they hurt?
He writes to me in sleep. That’s where I get words.
Just scribbles, aren’t they?
My body knows what he means.


The man by the East gate wakes slow, wrapped in a blanket made of wool. The patterns make him dizzy. Flies circle his eyes.

Damn flies. How you make a home outta shit? I just don’t get it, he says, lifts his body up then down the loft ladder.

The mares wait for their feed, pawing sawdust till he can’t breathe without coughing.

Let me tell ya, he says toward the stalls, I got half the mind to starve you lot. Ain’t singin for shit and I’m runnin’ outta hay.

Joe? You awake yet? Get your lazy ass up.

No. No I ain’t drinkin. Unlike you, I gotta work ethic. Look, I need you to take a couple ponies off me. Runnin’ outta feed and half the lot are duds.

Didn’t I call your ass last week to come pick one of em up?

Well congratulations. Glad to hear you’re runnin’ em good in Ruidoso, but for Christ’s sake, you know what racing does to their heart, Joe. Pulls it right out their mouth and into the mud. Kills em! I don’t give a shit what you do with your ponies. Stop sending me the spoiled ones. Listen, when you get a break in money-makin’, come take a couple these duds off my hands, OK? I’m runnin’ outta feed here! If you see my wife, fuck her for me.

Yeah. Yeah. Whatever you say, Joe.

I’m getting too old for this shit, he thinks, tears flakes of alfalfa.

He stops in front of the third mare’s stall, hands shaking, pulls the latch back.

What you thinkin’ sweetie? What the hell kinda nightmares are runnin’ around your head, huh? I got a little girl’s gonna fix you right up. Sun’s out good and strong today. What about a run in the river? Damn. You were once a hell of a spirit. River’s cold, but good for the hocks.


I placed the capsule of fish hooks by my bed. Dreamed a snake wrapped around my throat. Woke up screaming. Back in sleep, dreamed a swirl of trout tried to eat my body. At first I was scared but warmth spread, tingled. Carried to shore. Lips stuck, eyes wide. Woke up again, wet.


What’s the book of life?
You still asking that question?
You think the sky knows?
If it’s a skull, it has a brain.
Where’s its brain?
In the heart of birds. You see my egg?
The circle you drew in the dirt, yeah.
NO! It’s an egg!
You wanna run to the river again?
I’m tired.
My head’s dirty.
Wash it yourself.
How’d you get here?
I don’t know.
Maybe through the skull of the sky.
What happened to your knees?
I crawled around, looking for my blue jay.
Should have looked in the tress.
No, he can’t fly.
How do you know?
The scissor-tale told me. She was crying.
Where’s this man? Does he know anything about 33X07?
Your demon? Did he eat your orange?
Not my demon. That man you’re on about.
Why are you screaming?
Hey! Don’t kick me! Where you going?
The river! My heart’s dirty!


Something inside wants to push through. Curtains like tongues, fish hooked. In my apartment, an old AC unit sits under the window. If I plug it in, it shakes. Shocks the wood paneling, sends dust up in waves.

Once, I ran through a dirt-devil. Could see the horizon for miles, asking me to escape down a hitch-way, nestled in a field I should know about. But it was spring. Snakes out. Which road to follow—what’ll eat you first—jaws in the dirt, or some stranger-jaw on the sofa?

Used to lie on my mare bareback for hours. Something large when you’re impossibly small, breathing underneath. A body believes it knows when it’s safe to love. But it doesn’t.


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Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick

Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She has been nominated for a Best New Poets and her manuscript was a finalist for the Levis Prize in Poetry. Hardwick’s chapbook, Hummingbird Mind, is available through Mouthfeel Press and she is an associate poetry editor for The Boiler Journal. Her work has appeared in the following: 3:AM Magazine, Night Train, Versal,Sugar House Review, Four Way Review, among others. She writes in the deserts of West Texas.

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