KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Tanka Tale: 435 words


by Claire Everett

Any old thing can yield a cut. This was different. It was one of the kind that brand themselves upon the mind, searing white-hot into memory and deeper still, a fierce pleasure-pain that solders heart to bone to leave a welt that reads like braille in darkness. Always with her now, a scar that she wears, though none but she knows that it’s there, a distinguishing mark that sets her apart, an invisible tattoo indelible as her thumbprint.

What a fool she has been to think this was the path for her. In the face of such grace, hers was the foot in the sweet mouth of Helicon, hers the ink, dumb to tell, the ham-fisted pen. This she knew: not one word, not one phrase was ever original after all, though the smiths will tell you otherwise. And if the slates were all wiped clean, there would come again another Montag, another Granger to tell the tales, never the same and good as new.

So she stops her ears to them, sends them away without a bye or leave, refugees destined to tramp forever the shores of their own country. But still they murmur like the ten thousand voices of the sycamore. She bids them hold their tongues, take everything back to the pursed, silver-grey lips of spring, before the soft flicker of the first green thought, before the dream was spoken for fear it would break. Perhaps if she didn’t exhale? But it is only a matter of time. Perhaps if she could still the clock

in the hall
the twelve bright bells
of the third quarter chimes...
wind-riffled leaves
a whiff of sulphur

Surely sleep must come. And soon. She draws the blankets over her head and the room pans out to the little house (number 41), out above the rooftops of the street where she lives, coming at godspeed to star upon star upon star (for each knows its place far better than she). Then down, down, billowing like the silk of a parachute, brushing the moon that makes blue shadows of all who walk the earth, not least he who lingers now on her doorstep. And in a whirl of scarlet leaves, as if to trace a lover’s brow, careful not to wake her, he draws with a finger lightly, (after the 4 and before the 1) the flat top and rounded belly of a neat number 5. Though none but he knows that it’s there.

in the simmer dim
of a not yet dream
the slow stir
of words that burned
once and will again


—Finalist in the KYSO Flash Triple-F Writing Challenge

Editor’s Note: “Simmer dim” refers to the period of just over five hours of twilight in the Northern Isles of Scotland, where the sun shines for nearly 19 hours per day during the Summer Solstice.

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