Cousin, can’t you see that there is no more love to be dredged from those ionized craters? Was not the sight of rubble where a city once stood evidence enough that sentimentality will not rebuild our shuddering hearts? What will it take to convince you that our aspirations fled in an airplane with trunk loads of gold bars to Switzerland for a quick deposit?
Bundle all your prayers together like a palm frond dripping with tears. Pull all your fears out by the roots and let them float like durian fists in the first monsoon. Pay no mind to the brackish bones that pop out of thick black mud because if you start listening to the tales they tell, you’ll be in for some long nights.
Just look at your face so wasted playing a man so real, as real as charred skin in your hair can get. How far will you trudge down this never-ending path of enlightened servitude? Wade into the river to soothe your feet as many times as you’d like, but the ringworms keep burrowing.
Comrade, come and have a glass of champagne with your Aunts and Uncles sitting over there in that ransacked cabana in the back of the dead prince’s compound. It belongs to All of Us now as you can so clearly observe from the ring of royal heads out front in the roundabout.
Come, rid yourself of any misgivings. There is work to be done, but who says we cannot share a smile during these times of hardship? We beg you, Brother, put down that bucket of worry. How many times do we need to break your fingers until you accept our humble invitation?
I would sneak cold chicken bones from off the dinner table and place them in a tin on my bookshelf. The stench would permeate my closed bedroom door, so much so that my mom would implore my dad to tell me to get rid of the rotting carcass or whatever I was hiding under the mess of clothes and books I called a bedroom.
In bed I would read about the fossilized remains of giant cold-blooded monsters found in cliffsides all over Montana and Utah, believing them to be the ones I watched at the movie theater, ripping roofs off cars and creating a stampede of panicked humans jumping all over each other, like flooded city sewer rats.
Completely unaware that my boyhood was facing extinction, I was unprepared to see it replaced with a new order unlike any other. The changing configuration of my priorities would force me to plan my one trip to the moon prematurely. As pressure to live up to expectations grew, I presumed a wise pterodactyl would speak up for me when my own words were so easily lost to interpretation.
I stood deep inside my thoughts and planted myself in the neighbor farmer’s tilled field, an oasis where no silly rules grappled with me and no eyes pried while I sat in the pebbly dirt, scraping and digging down into the soil. A kernel of hope grew in me as I dug past the bones of a beast so enormous that no one could deny the proof of another epoch just aching to discover me.
On pitted wooden floor slats lie the entrails of a stillborn goat squishing out my fortune:
“They all will leave…live again.”
I re-sheath the knife and fold the photograph of me in eighths to form a cube and slip it into my shirt pocket.
Life has handed me the gifts of breath and pride, and still I rely on obsequious superstition for guidance.
A shard of glass tinkles to the floor when the nightly raccoon raps on the window to get my attention. “Tempus est etiam…,” it says through the gap.
The raccoon lets itself in through the broken window. Snow has not yet fallen, but my bones shiver and knees creak. I wrap myself in a blanket, lean against a crumbling wall and then sit down. The critter ambles toward the eviscerated goat and sticks its nose into the cooling guts. I pelt it with pebbles loosened from the wall. Its yellow eyes glower into mine. It rears up on its hind legs, barks at me and then scurries up the stairs.
“Relinquo….!” it yells.
I turn the camera on myself again and take a picture. The flash pulls at my face and exposes my will to remain at variance over dialogue with quadrupeds.
A drop of water falls on my head, then three drops and then even more, until I can’t stop stabbing that face in my pocket.
Kevin Minh Allen was born Nguyễn Đức Minh to a Vietnamese mother and American father who remain unknown to him. He was adopted by a couple from Rochester, New York and spent 17 years in Seattle, Washington pursuing a life less ordinary, then returned to his hometown in 2017 to pursue something more extraordinary. Kevin has had his work published in numerous print and online publications, recently WHYY News, The Deadly Writers Patrol and LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Science Fiction. His first book of poetry is My Proud Sacrifice (Goldfish Press, 2014). His second is Go In Clean, Come Out Dirty (Rabbit Fool Press, 2017).