patterned after subway
lurching; leave here,
weave left, all stairs,
no breath at the top
and its grime and sidewalk;
scraping against each other.
Don't touch, just shove
at your sides;
wait and wait and wait,
The light changes.
Slow down, speed up.
Don't ever stop.
Cellular, this circuitry
coursing through concrete.
Quickening, cutting off
each quip with a kiss.
Is this what you want?
Your heart or a jackhammer.
Breakfast in Bed
You break yourself over the rim
of bone, the lips, the
bowl of belly sucked in.
You spread out, stick fast.
Under the thin white cover of skin,
you're not so fragile;
but you go running,
spilling out of your own mouth.
This realized fear: the fissure
after rolling around in palms,
tooth tapping against shell;
it cracks, and there's no repair;
just you mixed with me,
alchemizing in the air,
open and too close
to ever get back in.
She figured they had as much in common as anybody. Maybe more. They both knew about fixing things, how to keep things running. It’s just that she took care of engines and he worked on people instead.
People. She was still a novice there, lots of learning left. Machines, they made real sense, told you what you wanted to know in a simple language. Of course everyone else thought it indecipherable. They just weren’t listening, is all.
Could be she ought to listen better to people too.
That’s probably why the doctor had his place, same as she had hers. If she thought about it, the body was really like a wet, pink engine. So, that she took care of the metal kind and his were fragile with flesh, well, that was of little consequence, wasn’t it? Made no difference. You still had your generator, which was as much like a heart as anything, keeping it all going. And distributors kept the fuel running through—call it blood, call it gasoline, it’s still fuel. Well, the whole thing’s just a bunch of chambers. Basic muscular system, if she remembered her schooling, bones and such, all like gears and pistons and pins and bearings and crankshafts. Oh, levers were obvious. And carburetors: lungs, she guessed. Perhaps. Fine, she didn’t know where those fit in exactly. So maybe people and engines weren’t like each other at all. But she sure wished they were—would make a hell of a lot more sense.
No, she had plenty left to figure out.
Still, the time he fixed her up was pretty much the best thing that ever happened to her. She was an optimistic girl and she saw there was space for things to get better. Not just body-better, but better beneath the surface—closer to understanding. She thrived on challenge, she knew certain she did. If she still hadn’t figured out people, didn’t know them like her engines, then she could learn them. Learn him. Because possibly he and her were the same. Near enough the same, only with different workings and a different name each: discrepancies so tiny, really, she could hold them in her grease-grimed hand.
Her hands always taught her best. When she was still just a small thing, back at home, she learned mechanisms by taking them apart. And though she hadn’t taken the ship apart, she knew it inside and out, and that was just as good. Point was, she knew its makings. But sometimes you have to go back to basics, she thought. The same would work here, in theory. Just had to be proved.
It would have to be the engine room, where she could trust the light. She’d take him there, out of his cold blue room into hers, where no one could hear. He’d fixed her in his place, so he was due to be fixed in hers. But she’d have to still him, brace him so he wouldn’t go flying off like a loose coupling. If she could bring him to his knees, she could steady him, thread through his hair and hold him tight. Girl or not, she had grip, and her strength was a force to be reckoned with. But once he was there, not going, once she was sure, she could loosen her hold. Her hands would frame his scalp, feel the heat of him, the burn of his skin, less hot than heated metal but still enough to leave lines and curves to mark him onto her. She would feel the stop and start of his heart pump against the heels of her palms. She wondered if it would match the churn of the ship. If she could tell, that was, if the noise of her own pulse didn’t drown out the engines.
And when she was ready, she would begin with his mouth and push her fingers into him. Trace him until she was wet and smudged. Pull him apart piece by piece.
Beth Boettcher is a writer and woolgatherer, a rusty musician and restless listener, and a slapdash artist focusing on mixed media paintings and handmade books. Her work has appeared in Certain Circuits, Otoliths, nth position, Pedestal, and Agon (from which she received their Creative Writing Award in 1999). The Howled Chord, her first chapbook, explores the wilderness within and accidents of harmony and dissonance. She currently resides in the Alabama part of Pennsylvania.