It was a game my older brother made up and we only played it once
when we couldn’t find Monopoly. “That game sucks butt anyway,”
Jamie said, “I have a better idea.” We were in the kitchen. He pulled
a knife from its home in the drying rack. It made a shling sound.
“Give me your hand.” Because he was my brother, I gave him my hand.
He was smiling like he’d invented the home run. Dark curls fell
over his eyes. And then, like I had read his mind, he sliced.
My thumb first. “Ow,” I said. He looked up at me. Then he did it again.
He cut them all out of order. I didn’t appreciate that. In between slices,
he’d stare up for a moment, as if to make sure I hadn’t just walked away,
leaving my hand there in his. “Give me your other hand,” he said.
Again, he started with the thumb. But it wasn’t that clean this time;
he had a hard time getting through the bone. He see­sawed the knife,
grinding. He glanced up, as if checking up on me. I looked into his eyes,
an ugly brown, and whispered, “Hello.” He kept sawing until it cut through.
“Goodbye,” he said, but the way he said it, you could have sworn he said
“Hello.” Next, my nose. He laughed at the bleeding stub of it like it had made
a good joke. Then, my ears. He held them to his mouth and mocked
my whisper, “Hello? Hello! Anybody home? No! Nobody’s home!”
Then he cut out my tongue. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
he asked, holding it. It looked pink and lost in his big palm.
I told him everything. How I loved, and who, and even why.
I told him every beautiful detail of their faces. I told him what it was like
to be six years old and dying and how deeply I felt for him and how wonderful
it was that he understood everything now that he was in the fifth grade.
Jamie stared at me like I was a television. The kitchen floor was slippery with red.
I was becoming lightheaded, and everything in the room
was two shades closer to white. “Okay, now give me your foot,” he said.
“Found it!” Mom yelled from the closet in Jamie’s bedroom.
My fingers littered the floor like cigarettes. My nose was in Jamie’s pocket.
I was leaking out my ankle now and couldn’t help but cry out.
The kitchen was unbearably bright. I was balancing on one foot
like a flamingo. “Be quiet,” he said, “Or we’ll have to stop.” I didn’t
want that. I only wanted love. This was it. I was sure of it, because
it tasted like blood.

Shira Erlichman

Shira Erlichman is a poet, musician, and visual artist. A three time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work can be found in The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed Reader, PBS Poetry, The Massachusetts Review, Bitch, Psychology Tomorrow, and Winter Tangerine Review, among others. She was awarded a residency by the Millay Colony and the James Merrill Fellowship by the Vermont Studio Center. BUST Magazine premiered her new album Subtle Creature in October, calling it "a spectacular mystery."

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