Nina Puro

Stilted (Relapse)

The others tip their limbs toward night, lilting from the floorboards of rotting porches. The others are mountains. The mountains are closer than else in the room. Tonight there is no symmetry & every word is a cliff, low streetlights fragile buzzing moons. Hands could pass right through me.

I'm trying to remember the color of each changing tree in daylight. The air is white, torpid. There is a strange thin film, like wax, over each pebble & twig, each pane of glass & inch of every person's skin, over my closed throat. Tonight, the brightest thing is the match flickering in my cupped palm. (Of course what would ruin us comes from my hands.)


Walking home fast to the scratches around the keyhole of my door—even when I have the key, I can't get it in the lock. Cold water seeps from under the fridge. I am trying to remember my forgetting. Did who I once was really happen? (The bright-lit dome of the paper lamp above the stairs, the hospital buzzing; car lights in drizzle sweeping the remains of what is obvious, & what remains.) We are not frightened or particularly gifted, yet the lights stay on with the ceiling fan while we sleep.

What happened once is flat now. But it was once huge & inflated, & in between it & me was not enough air & a smell akin to fear & rotten leaves. (It was like being allowed to half-live as a warning—scaled, clawed, diminished of my own accord.)


How little I understand: the wreckage, the collapse of the wreckage to black-and-white photographs. I stand here, swaying. Night seeps under the doorjamb. What does one do in the aftermath, when the lost things are mostly restored, except a decade during which everyone else kept going? The awful has already happened. I hold onto this, as to a candle at a vigil. In the end, I don't know what happened— that I was brave, that I really won. (The circle of women, gone tallowy, gone.) Something blows through the closed window, something heavier than the sulfured flare. If it comes back, one half will stay in bed. One half of me will run.

Nina Puro's work is forthcoming or recently appeared in Cream City Review, Boxcar, Pleiades, Third Coast, Bodega Magazine, and other publications. The recipient of an MFA from Syracuse University, she lives in Brooklyn, works in publishing for Persea Books and George Braziller, Inc, and is bad at thinking of clever third-person quips to put in places like this.