things that made me

Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Maria Oswalt


there is a large oak tree outside my grandfather’s home.
                   mama says it’s been there since she was little-says it watched her grow up just like it watched me grow up. i don’t know why but the thought digs a hole through my chest and when i lift my shirt up in the mirror i see straight through me.
                   sometimes when i drive by my old elementary school i picture myself going inside and sitting at my old desk. my knees don’t fit and it smells like pencil shavings and erasable markers, but i cry and it hurts because now i am too old to be crying at school.                   
                   i still know my old best friend’s garage code, can hear the whir of metallic chains pulling it open when i dream. the day we saved a baby bird plays in my head like a movie, our lips stained with popsicle juice as we burn our feet on asphalt running home.
                   i lick at my wounds like a dog, but my wounds don’t exist and i am not a dog and the licking looks an awful lot like gilmore girls playing at three am in an empty living room.
                   summers still taste like sweat and dirty soccer uniforms. dumping our shoes on the porch ‘cause they’re filled with playground sand, picking the scabs on our knees, and running a thumb over the scar that remains seven years later.
                   lizards dart between the deck and the pool and i squash chips in my sandwich and melt the bread between my chlorine-soaked forefinger and thumb. i teach my childhood dog how to play rescue in the pool and my dad is yelling because now he has to bathe her.
                   i still have the shape of the first boy i kissed in my hands. it feels like a coke bottle and he had tasted like strawberry milk. we had collided like two crashing cars, feeling for each other in the dim light of the moon with the rain crashing on a tin roof, and now he is grown and lives in illinois. i wonder when we got so old.
                   sometimes i look in the mirror and see a child staring back, and other times it is a woman.
                   when did i stop hiding when play dates were over? or made a pinky promise i knew i wasn’t gonna keep? when was the last time i played manhunt barefoot at a softball field? are all my goodbyes sad because i was leaving my childhood, or because i never realized it was happening?
                   my childhood smells like bug spray and sea salt and chlorine that turns my hair green. it tastes of pink bubblegum and watermelon and broken promises that we would never grow up. 
                   when i hold the fluttering heart of my childhood in my hands it is heavier than i thought it would be. to wear it again would be a burden, but i long for it still.
                   the street i was raised on smells like gasoline and fertilizer. i dream of dropping a match and watching it all burn down. would i be seized with grief or comfort? are they not often the same thing?
                   mama tells me that college will ease the sting of lost innocence.
                   but when i dream of heaven, it is on the lips of a boy that tasted like strawberry milk.

don’t go home

Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Les Anderson

stay. 

here. with me; there is a reflection on the lake of something that reminds me of you. i have watched too many men rip themselves apart for words on lips, for stains on cheeks; stay where you are small and you are kind and you taste like salt and earth and skin.

stay

don’t go home. your hand is nice in mine— is it worth it to peel off your skin for me? to dip your fingers in my hair and drink up the sky? i’ll steal you the moon, you say, but i don’t want the moon. i only want you.

don’t go home.

the sun is too hot, too bold, too handsome and proud and it scatters your back with dots that might be cancer and i think of how i would follow you into the dark. i want to cradle your neck in my hands, to melt into the sand, to draw you a map of my body so that you may know how it burns for you.

stay. please.

linger a while longer where the air is sweet. i’ll slip into your smile and live between the gaps in your teeth and you’ll carry me with you wherever you go. or we’ll head east to the mountains and grow into trees with entwined roots and brushing branches and i’ll share the sunlight with you again.

whatever you want. just stay.

stay. stay. don’t go home. you are my home.

a bear of a different name

Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Daniel Salcius


the 7:40 power outage: the buzzing stops- momentarily i am left clinging to the silence of a still life. would that it be still, would that it be quiet, would that i could carve an image of courage upon my own hands to face the bear of a different name.

the bear of a different name lives in my kitchen. his eyes roll and his hackles raise for he is made of worm-bitten fleece and sleepless dreams and he is something larger than loneliness and heavier than grief and he has made a home upon my tiled floors.

you have killed often, o’ bear with blood-soaked paws. you have devoured hearts of stronger men and now you have come for mine.

the bear of a different name loops circles through my house. he grins a grin of hallowed joy and pretty lies and shadowed thoughts.

i strike down kings just to watch them die. i come for maidens to watch them cry.

the bear of a different name roots through my cupboards- he tears down my walls and feasts on tv 

dinners of fiberglass and amygdalas, he sips on a wine of youth and memories that have grown too bitter for my tastes.

o’ god of lost time, why do you darken my door?

the bear of a different name stands heavy on my chest and grows larger yet. i cannot breathe, i cannot speak in the darkness of an empty room.

big and small and big and small; shall i grow some more?

the bear of a different name leans over my passenger seat on route 34 and tells me to swerve into oncoming traffic. his breath is hot and his chops drip with spit and i clench my steering wheel with white knuckles and pray he goes away.

o’ king of sorrow, o’ king of nails, go back to your home of death and flies

the bear of a different name sits heavy beside my bed and watches with all-knowing eyes. he curls up at my tired feet and breathes in tandem with me. he weighs down my bed and slips through my sheets and the world must shrink to fit him.

when you have loved what death has touched there is nowhere you can hide.

in our haunted house

Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Derek Lee


in our haunted house, i eat a sandwich for lunch.

you are watching me with vulture eyes and you lick your lips clean. we are not so different, i think, but you laugh at me all the same, even with the curve of your spine in my palm and the cold press of fingertips to mine. when did you get so cold?

i carve your initials into the kitchen cabinets and stare at them until i find you staring back at me; the lights flicker and i trace your outline. you are still shaped like someone i used to love.

i’m sleeping with the ghosts of past lovers. they reach out to touch me but i’ll never feel their touch. you say i lived for love, but for you i’d give it all up. every meaningless minute.

i died somewhere between the beginning and the end of the world. your hands are still stained with soil from where you buried me; i remember your bruised neck and the smell of liquor on your breath.

drown with me you say and pull me beneath the current. my lips turned blue before my chest began to ache; a faucet drips and takes me back to the dirt and the waves, my hair in your hands as you held me down.

we dance in the kitchen. you are basked in the stove light and there’s a knife between my ribs-you twist the handle just to hear me cry. you touch our sliced palms together; blood is thicker than your spit but both drip down my lips.

a house is not a home-your teeth are sharp, they cut my thighs they tear my clothes they eat me whole. love is a conditional act; you like me cold, you like me pale. to be held and to be strangled are both to be touched, you remind me why i need you as i dip back beneath the water.

i am the seed, i am the fruit. juice dribbles down your chin and i want to cry. there’s a you-shaped bruise on my wrist, i think the others are watching our pantomime as i eat the fruit from your hands.

i am not real; you twist me around the tiled floors and i want to kill you like you killed me. your blood tastes sweet in my mouth. it was always meant to be spilled. 

in our haunted house, i paint a picture of you with my hands and dream of knives, of waves, and of soil weighing me down.

the train

Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Andrew Karn


i clear a space for myself- there is a life to be lived yet i place my head between my knees and pretend that i can breathe for a few fleeting moments. 

i am in love with the going, never the staying: a home does not taste like vinegar to the tongue, nor does it rattle like the car of an old freight train.

 it is a summer morning of violent beams or hot bike tires and i am living with a deep loss in my chest- i travel amongst the tracks of untied shoelace, the tracks of a broken flower stem, and i feel like weight of a thousand dreams upon my shoulders. 

life is not kind to the living; i walk it free but never alone for i am right beside me.