Today is the ninth of August, and I am (burning down) okay. Today is the ninth of August, and the kitchen starts on the stairs—plates line the steps, powdered in crumbs, just empty-handed porcelain. There are three hours in between me (and you, you’re here too) and daylight. It is morning (night-morning) on the ninth of August, and I feel (like a forest fire in winter) fine.
I start to push the kitchen back upstairs, cleaning up the hemorrhage of plates and bowls and utensils dribbling into the basement. I get tired on the second plate and (experience a distinct falling sensation that doesn’t have a ground) sit down on the fifth step. No one will come to me and look at the one plate I brought to the sink and applaud. No one will think it looks or sounds or feels like an opera when I get the second one there and lie down on the white tiles for two hours. I feel the opera and the stinging and the light pink idea that maybe my heart rate is out of tune and dying. My left arm creases, and I think I see little lines of flame flickering along my arteries. I’m being generous. I know I see little lines of flame. The opera swells like a bruise and I get up, and there are thirty minutes between me (us) and the sun being here. I trace the shoulders of the you-shaped space. I am almost sure that the air here is full of bones (yours).
The horizon is paling and the sky looks like a river fish with black scales cut in half, its white muscles peeking out, tendons of light streaking from the widening cut. The insides are spilling over the stars. I do not know what color my insides are. I mean, I know clinically about the reds and purples and narrow blues, but never having really seen them, I don’t know for sure. I spend five real minutes deeply afraid about my insides and their color. I try to retune my heart, but that is very hard to do from here. I shake my hair and I get up, but by the time my head is sitting on top of my straightened spine like a lollipop, I am very tired again. I spend twenty-four breaths standing while the fish splatters over the carcass of a paper moon (fire, I still feel like a fire).
My left arm falls asleep. The tiredness pools, and I convince myself that the rest of me can be awake if I let one limb take all my sleeping. I get more plates. They feel heavy, heavy like planets or eye contact through a mirror or pearls that you found yourself. The fish along the skyline flips over to its belly, and gray scales of nimbus clouds burden the oncoming glow. It starts raining. The water makes comets down the windows. I look out at the grays, the boiling of a fish stomach, and the sky, eating itself. There are nineteen things from the kitchen that are still on the stairs. It’s raining. My left arm’s still gone. I shake it, the fire rustles, the rest of me stays still.
It is still the ninth of August. I still feel the snow drifting under my skin and the forest fire ripping the cold into scraps. All of it happens in the dark behind curtains of tissue. I wonder about the color of my insides. I wonder if a broth made from my bones would carry an aftertaste of December. I wonder how many miles my heart has gone by now, just in its cradle, just in the centimeters it jolts through. I wonder if it’s gone farther than I have. It feels like it has. I feel behind. I don’t mean the crayon-red heart with the two, teardrop halves, the one I write Hallmark cards from. I mean the one with veins, the muscle. I feel like the muscle is somewhere else. Or maybe, sometime in between not caring and caring so much that I let my kitchen bleed into my basement, some creation-intern shoved a mussel in my chest because they didn’t understand homonyms, and now, now there’s a soft slip of shellfish under my ribs.
I don’t know how long I can go on using it as a heart. I don’t know if I’ll get all the dishes upstairs before it starts palpitating salt. But I do think, with its grays and clots of protein, my heart looks a lot like the sky on this ninth of August.
I will at least try to get all the knives back to the sink.
Claire Oleson is from Grand Rapids, Mich., and currently absorbed in her undergraduate studies in English and Creative Writing at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. Her work has appeared in Siblíní Art and Literature Journal, Potluck Magazine, Tipton Poetry Journal, and others.