Back to Issue Forty-One

Skeleton Fantasy Show


Inspired by the painting of the same name, by Li Song (1190 – 1284)


I grew tired of groundwater and bedrock, and came to the surface ivory,
eyeless, without a mouth. I shook off sediment which clung
leechlike to tarsals, ribs, shortbones and long — I remembered flesh,

but desired only clothing,        a winding sheet        something to draw over myself
and convince them I am

I am domestic. I follow a woman and her small children home, I slip inside
and dig through the ornaments of her mothering: oily pots, pans and
serving spoons, ribbons for her daughters’ hair, little clay bowls

of rice and cabbage, tin bells and fat, yellow candles that smoke religiously
and smell of animal. Underneath her skin is still more junk—
the little promises and threats, her terrible pumping heart full of anxieties.

The mother gives me a cloth to wrap up my head,        dark gossamer.
I am see-through, now. I cannot be deceived
while she waits patiently for illusion. She begs my phantasm.

These are the tricks you might show a mother freshly made:
frantic light feathered against a curtain, a mirage of heat with no threat
of burning. Cattle-borne illness that comes

and sidles up to the doorframe but does not enter. Edge-less knives,
bite-less beetles, uncooked meat that turns to char in her mouth—
theater of disaster       all that may hurt her

all that she does not understand.

I was shown these tricks, too. When I was young
and skittish, as my hair lost its curl and my body slowly
closed in on itself like a shell,             grateful.



Boy Meets Girl — From Mars


inspired by the photograph taken by Weegee


Her pale white neck glowing in the arctic light of the Frigidaire,
my mother begins once again to numb her way through the cocktail
story of hers and my father’s space age romance in Skokie, Illinois—

how lunar the headlights of his Dodge used to shine through the shifting leaves
of the sugar tree, and how freckled young they were then: him      lit up
with pomade, and her lucent in her mother’s tennis sweater,

and of course how electrically he promised to marry her in October
1957: the same day the soviets slung Sputnik into elliptical orbit,
and the same day my mother missed her monthly and knew her morning
sickness had not been simple gastronomic inadequacy.

This story leaves me fisheyed with fondness for the specters
of my parents—               the sweethearts who sucked down sodas
at the dogwood street fountain and watched Deborah Kerr

movies at the Pickwick Theatre. I dream the runaway
expressions they must have worn as those star-crossed children
onto their faces while we eat dinner
beneath the radon light of the television set.

Sputnik orbited the earth for three weeks before its batteries died,
and then for two months after that, before it
back      into the atmosphere.

One anniversary, I watch my mother throw
a gift of abalone earrings into the mouth of the garbage disposal,
I watch my father plunge a pie knife into the Neapolitan glory
of a homemade Baked Alaska just to make her gasp—

Like all children who have trouble sleeping, I must spend some of those empty,
thoughtless nights with no one else awake staring at the gray
of my ceiling. Haunted, I will often trace the vaporous trail

of my parents’ longing down the hall and into the steel-bright day
of our Youngstown kitchen. The years collapse in
on themselves and I find in that loss the starcrossed children,

the teenaged specters, stunned staring speechless
into the only life that ever belonged to me.


Fiona Stanton is an undergraduate at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. Her writing has appeared in The Interlochen Review, Henry’s Fork Journal, Valley Visions, and The Adroit Journal. She won the 2019 Adroit Prize for poetry, and was also a finalist for the Lake Effect National High School Poetry Contest, and has received a National Gold Medal and an American Voices Medal from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

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