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

Lemon dress sister amongst us

& Big Mama said, Yea and verily, or lo, or something, Mama needs a girl.

She raised her fat hands to the sky and her gloves were lost and her fingers frostbit.

We waved our sticks high and thought about smashing.

Big Mama said, She will be wee and twee. She will be tasty.

& there was thunder. & we didn’t smash. We didn’t know how we’d found our way back to Big Mama from the city of all glass. We didn’t know why we’d found our way back.

Big Mama said, Yea.

Big Mama said, Wee.

Then she looked up at the sky.

Then she said, Your daddy’ll be here.

We looked up to the sky and giggled. Then we thought of the baobabs under our daddy’s fingers and in his beard and how scratch-scratchy they’d be on our faces as he hugged us all up to him.

The scratchy-scratch sometimes made us laugh & sometimes made us smash.

Sometimes both at once.

But there was no lightning & there was no thunder.

& we didn’t know what girls were.

So we ran up and down Big Mama’s knuckles to keep them warm. Our little breaths free floated by, our lungs sparkled inside we could tell maybe, and our little sticks were cold but we didn’t care cos Big Mama’d cough and spray us with a warm fine mist every now and then.

We were happy but we couldn’t smash and so we couldn’t laugh.

We ran for days and days.

Big Mama would shift and heave and mist and spray then say, A wee girl.

Big Mama’d say, A girly girl.

Big Mama’d say, Pink.

She’d say, Just for me.

& finally finally Daddy made it back down from the sky.

Our lungs were ice chunks by then and our blood cells little tongues sticking and unsticking and sticking again. We ran sluggish while big Mama slept and sleep-whispered that she’d make us into gloves after all.

Daddy scooped us all up in his arms. His beard hung over us tantalizing our ticklebones. He counted us with his great baobab fingers. Then he said, What have you done to the rest?

We looked around. One of us ran back and forth and fell down on his stick. One of us tripped and his stick went in another’s slit.

Daddy said, You poor balaclavaed fuckers.

Daddy said, My sinners.

Daddy said, Come unto me.

& then he said, Olly olly oxen free.


& then there were our brothers and it was a surge of locusts and it was a sea of our bloods and there they were and they were just like us like before and they were running and waving sticks, too then they were here and bigger than before but still balaclavaed so we didn’t try to roll over any of them or set them on fire.

Cos when we’d set one of us on fire before we’d seen nothing behind the slit for our eyes and then we were crazy in our nothingness and didn’t laugh and were only rescued with aphid shit and the city of all glass and we still remember this and we will find our way back.

We may ask our daddy yet.

Daddy built us a baobab bonfire and said, Keep it going, and cos we loved fire almost as much as smashing, we did. Big Mama and Daddy disappeared and we heard noises of the wind and noises of knees and branches creaksnapping and then huffingpuffing and some bansheeing and heeeheeheeing. We were older but we still loved the laughing so we sat around resting our lungs with our balaclavaed brothers and didn’t bust their asses and we all laughed and laughed.

Big Mama and Daddy came back and Big Mama’s fingers were not white and yellow patchy.

Big Mama said, A little girly.

Big Mama said, You owe me.

We surrounded her cankles and looked at her through our balaclavas.

Daddy said nothing. He just looked at us through our balaclavas.

Then he said, I will tell you a story.

& he did. & it went like this:

There once was a town where the people lived and these people were all kinds and some were tattooed and pierced and some were dreadlocked and some mohawked and some were pixied and some artists and some students and some smokers and some smoking and some were poor and some trustfundy and some bohemian and some were hustlers and some casualties and some brokenhearted and some coldhearted and so on and on…

We didn’t know what most of his words meant but we loved the sound of Daddy’s voice so we laughed.

Daddy said, Hush little fuckers. & then:

& there was a day out of all the days where all these people would get together and some of them would get on bicycles and they would ride around and around and around for hours and hours through the streets while others would ready water and beer and sardines and crackers and others would walk around and around the streets with beer cans in koozies and they would be looking for other beer can koozy peeps to fall in love with or maybe they wanted one of the bicyclists to stop for love with them and then there was your sister and she had a beer can koozy and she wore a lemon dress.

One of us wanted to ask what was a bicycle and one of us wanted to ask what was a sister. But we knew better to interrupt our Daddy cos we wanted to get back to that city of glass.

Your sister was wearing a lemon dress and she was walking around and around and people would say things behind her like, look at that lemon dress, and, who do she think she is, and I would like a bite, and where can I get more beer?

They would say things like, Do me, and things like, tattoo me, and, six Xanax, and, gotta shit. Your sister still kept walking and walking. It was like when you poor fuckers walked and walked and walked all around looking for glass.

Big Mama whispered, My anarchists. & we laughed cos somehow we knew that meant she loved us in her own Big Mama way.

& your sister kept walking and walking the streets until she was on the edge, on the outskirts, and it was dark now and solitary bicyclists were floating by quiet with strobing headlights and it was beautiful and dark and your sister in the lemon dress cried.

She cried every time a bicyclist strobed by, every time one whirred by, the shadow pulse-pulsing. & then the bicyclist would be gone and it was dark and the streetlights dim and she could hear the din of the peeps behind her and she wanted to join them but she didn’t know how or maybe she didn’t want to or even know if she really did want some form of communion but then she’d feel it in the flashing headlights, in the spokes going round and round. She felt it in those few seconds before the solitary bicyclist would zip past. Zip, zip past.

Love sticking and unsticking or some shit.

One of us was about to cry cos we didn’t get it and all we ever really wanted to do ever was smash and one of us almost said so.

But, we remembered that city of glass.

So, we held our tongues.

We held our tongues like it was frozen out and we were worried that our tongues would unstick and stick and unstick like the cells in our lungs.

Big Mama held her big hands on her stomach like she was worried about something. & somehow we knew there was a new thing swimming. In there. Somehow we knew.

& that new thing was pink skinned freshness.

& that new thing was dreaming lemon dresses. She was spinning them in her sleep; she was knitting them gossamer of blood cells as she rode the tidal waves of Big Mama’s belly rolls.

We wanted to lift our sticks and smash Big Mama’s tidal fat and laugh but we knew, too, that that would be the end of the city of glass.

& we knew always no matter what Daddy would go back in the sky again.

& we knew we would run free again.

We knew we would split with our brothers just like a sea.

& we knew we would leave Big Mama behind.

But, Big Mama wouldn’t notice this time. & she wouldn’t notice her fat hands freezing, her skin yellowing to lemon in patches again. She’d sit alone worrying. She’d be worrying about that new thing. She’d be lovesick nofood starving almost. & that new thing’d just be sticking and unsticking and spinning and knitting until she came out all lemony fresh and gossamering.

Originally published in Barge Press


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