The way the sky was now, a 2013 fiction chapbook by Ryder Collins

There are ghosts all around us

& so Big Mama grabbed us all up to her in her massive jiggly arms & we giggled & were tickled & she breathed us in & we all wanted to cry but didn’t cos we are tough & then she breathed us out & we giggled again & her breath smelled like things we didn’t know about, things that once were like chewing gum, kaleidoscopes, rocking horses, and Saturday morning cartoons, & her breath smelled like things we liked like smashed glass, fire, balaclavas, and baobabs.

Then she set us back down and said, Go on with your bad selves.

She said, Go, balaclava babies, go.

Our sister said nothing. She just kept looking away away and hugging herself to herself out of any of our reach.

Big Mama said, Go my little fuckers. Go smash.

Big Mama made with her jiggles like she was going to smash us away so we all ran waving our sticks and laughing without even taking one last look at our sister.

Who was different.

She did not have a balaclava and she did not have a stick.

She did have a lemon dress and she was wearing it.

Our brothers were not different & we ran away from them, those balaclavaed other bastards, and we ran away from Big Mama, and we ran to where we hoped there was glass to smash, and we ran to where we hoped our Daddy would hear the glass smash & laugh. We ran and we waved our sticks.

There were mounds of dirt & we ran over them.

There were bodies without graves, and we jumped over them.

There were no grave markers but there were rocks & we lit into them with our sticks.

The not-grave markers were not glass and all we got was some oomphs and some splinterings.

There were pigeons up ahead and we ran at them with our sticks.

There were crows but we knew better than to fuck with those fuckers, yo.

There were dimestore wooden Indians and huckleberries and spray paint cans & a raft and creepyforestcreatures & we didn’t know what the fuck was what or why or who cared so we ran.

Then there was quiet and we were all alone in the woods so we smashed whatever we could to break the quiet cos the quiet didn’t make us laugh.

We were running and smashing and laughing. We knew we had a sister but we still didn’t know what a sister was. We knew there was no balaclava. We knew there were other not things. We knew there was a lemon dress but we just wanted to smash glass.

Lemons we knew were not glass.

Glass was glass.

Dresses were not glass.

Dresses were not made of glass.

We knew this and it made us laugh. We ran through pine trees and thought of Daddy’s long soulfingers sprouting. We spun round and round and round until some of us fell down and then one of us pissed on the dizzy fucker and then he was wet and that made us laugh and laugh.

Maybe Big Mama was chortling too, with her big cold hands on her big stomach.

Maybe, but which one of us thought that? Cos if we found out we would have to take his stick away. We would have to spin and spin him like the child like the piñata like the birthday we would never be or have.

There used to be Quinceaneras and there used to be sixteens.

None of this means shit to us but it is good to smash.

Our sister would’ve worn a pretty pink dress and danced with Our Father and cakes would have been eaten. There would’ve been virgins somewhere. Virgins. Or would be virgins or kinda virgins or remade virgins.

The real virgins would only pretend to eat cake cos they wouldn’t want to call attention to the body.

We do not know this but we know.

We are all body & we do not care.

We are all virgins & still we don’t care.

The pretend virgins would lick that frosting would grab a second rose off the virgins’ cake pieces would smear that sugar all over their tongues would run it up and down the insides of their mouths – their mouths that are smooth and pink and stretch, their mouths that get hard lumps when bitten inside, to savor the hard sugar crystals inside the softness.


But we know nothing about any of that.

We are virgins except when we stick our dicks in holes or treeholes. One of us once tried to stick a dick in our brother’s balaclavaed slit. The dick didn’t fit.

That brother ran back to Big Mama, crying.

The crying was salty and turned our rivers to oceans.

There were stingrays and jellyfish in our riverbeds and our barefeets got the wraths. We asked our Daddy, What was to be done.

He was silent up in the sky.

We said, Daddy, please.

We said, Dadddy, we will smash anything for you.

We said, Daddy, we will not even smash if that is what will make you laugh.

He didn’t even chuckle a wisp of cloud. It was so blue and bright above us. Our feet were throbbing so we dropped our sticks. Our feet were throbbing so we clutched our dicks. Our feet were throbbing and then we peed on each other’s feet cos we all had to pee at once and we couldn’t run and it was so good and we all said, Oh yeah.

O Yea.

Our peefeet stream was yellow and brown and it washed those stingray jellyfish out.

Our peefeet stream created a valley and a dewy dell and a geyser and wiped out the last remaining prairie dogs. Those bitches were always popping up on their two hind legs like our brothers and freaking our shit out. Those bastards were always popping up like our balaclavaed brethren & then disappearing just when our sticks got to waving anyway.

We will not miss the prairie dogs.

We would’ve smashed them out of existence.

They were ours just like everything else.

Well, we are claiming everything as ours cos we can.

There is no one but our brothers who cried and floated tweeaway and then came back & we fought them and won but that made Daddy mad and there’s Big Mama and Daddy and then that sister in the dress we’ve never met.

We have not met the sister.

We have not met the dress.

We have seen the sister and we have seen the dress.

She sat on the other side of Big Mama and wouldn’t even look at us.

Whatever. We will smash whatever we can out of existence. Except those crows that play dirty & swoop down on our heads when we least expect.

That is why we’ve called truce with the crows.

It is the only thing we could do.

It made our Daddy laugh and laugh.

We are still looking for our city of glass.

We want to say, Why, Daddy, why?

So, we smash and laugh and look for that city again. We have been kicked out of the bosom of our mama and we have been fighting & notfighting crows and we would destroy our brothers if they were not us, if when one of us’d set another of us on fire there’d hadn’t been nothing behind the balaclava and that made us so ascared.

There is our Daddy & we want to make him laugh.

& then there is the sister.

We have heard she is the beautiful.

We have heard no such thing.

There is no one to say anything like that except the ghosts who hang glass on trees. The ghosts whisper things & we kind of hear them sometimes. The ghosts have no balaclavas and are oh so cold.

Those ghosts are pale.

Those ghosts are cold.

Those ghosts are ascared of us.

Those ghosts have smashable things like bottles hanging from trees and nonsmashable things like ideas about beauty and towns and protection and property and chilluns and governance and rules and heartbreak and so much more.

We hear the ghosts whispering but we ignore them cos we can’t smash whispers & whispers don’t make Daddy laugh.

We don’t want to know beautiful beyond the sound of glass smashing. That is beautiful. There are so many rainbows and puppies and artichokes and Magna Cartas and magnum condoms and milk cartons and all these other things we’ve never experienced shattering in our glass.

Sometimes we feel there is another reality beyond our balaclavas.

Sometimes we think we may just not be empty without them.

Then we smash the ground cos we know that’s pure shit. We know this is the way things have come to pass, even if Big Mama and Daddy haven’t told us why yet.

There are ghosts all around us and we are what’s left of what’s left.

Originally published in Kleft Jaw



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Ryder Collins has a novel, Homegirl! Her chapbook, The way the sky was now, won Heavy Feather Review’s first fiction chapbook contest, and she has two chapbooks of poetry, i am hopscotch w/out hop and Orpheus on toast. She lives in Milwaukee, where ATMs used to be called “Tyme Machines” and beer PBR.