Streaks of Scarlet

A Story in 100 Parts


Scarlet scatters instances 
of herself like breadcrumbs; she spreads 
the scent of her pale
-petal skin, disperses ample strands of her
momentarily platinum hair, and sets asunder 
plethoric sections of each of her poems. 
You can see desire go traveling into the dark 
country of another soul: a place where cliffs break
off. Cold light like moonlight falling 
on it. Soon her disseminated mementos
will strew themselves over the palace
grounds, perimeter
to perimeter. 



He sits on a bench in the park where the addicts score, her poetry wadded in his fists. No one has any reason to know who he is, but they do. Everyone who passes him has, in their eyes, a look of recognition (they bow their heads to hide it). He looks angry, feels vicious. He scowls, stuffs his plentiful jewels into his ample pockets. 


Under his trembling eyelids, he tries to access his memories of her small, trusting face, her sweet, tentative smile, sunlit when it surfaced for him. 

So many skin-scented memories; too many tearstained images of shattered sapphire eyes, their lemon streaks lit up like lightning. He licks her paper / words, addicted to the static crackling that offers up her essence (her permission notwithstanding). 



maybe I’ll stay clean today, he mutters, post-stutter, stumble-drunk-and-high all last night— just like every other night. He fails, of course, but that’s fine: he takes it one day at a time. 

High again. I’d rather be dead 
he says, than sober.


Heroin is the whore 

he brings to their bed regardless of whether he lets Scarlet sleep 
beside him—or outside, in her car. 



For years—feeling lost, or overwrought and rotten—Scarlet stood outside his room, face pressed against the cold palace windowpanes, silently pleading with the prince / in him: oh please, just once, speak my name. He calls her The Bitch to his friends. Or She.

why won’t you say my name! (Weeping now.) The lacerated sky leaking cobalt.

tell me my name! she screams. The queen casts Scarlet’s reflection out of every mirror. The glass doesn’t break: Scarlet does. The princeling giggles. The queen cackles. Even the dead king laughs, the terrible sound of emptiness colliding with itself. 




herself free of so many killing memories, Scarlet discovers she is lost. After a 6½ hour trek, her legs are tired and weak; she finds herself / dispersed 

as countless shatterpieces. What makes life life, and not a simple story? Jagged bits, never still, moving all along the soul.



There is a third eye tattooed on the back of his neck, filled with winter, the better to watch her with. I am writing, she scratches on the paper, that it is 5:04 a.m. my arms are hungry; my mouth is empty. inside me, there are spiders skittering around the hollow place where my mind should be.



Piano chords claw at the silence. Fermata of anguish, her keening 
grief. (She never did learn how to play.)



smash the plate glass window, he told her once. Road reverse, reverse road, take her home, take her home, take her 



she’s probably still on her damned laptop, hauling it around the parking lot, sitting with it between her slut legs, the queen’s security chief tells Richard Tracey, the head of the palace’s FBI task force. 


The FBI papers the palace with warnings: a great menace, the signs say. do not trust this girl slut.


listen to the wind. the wind will tell you.

(The wind, the wind. Incessant 
between her fingers.)



He covers the scent of her with his hands, wiping more of her away with every furious swipe. He practices knifing the sunset with his original sin, the shade and shadows borne of it 

and turns away: the snow sloshing off the tops of towers, all different heights and depths, has captured his attention.



She cuts her hands on his diamonds.  
He cuts his diamonds on her hands.



She writes, I will come back from the dead 
then crosses it out.



He drives around in a BMW all day, which he cannot afford, looking to score.



On the back of the bus, she composes parables that are very clever at imitation, very clever at imitation. They all tell her favorite story: through the narrowing hole of yesterday comes today. Through the widening hole of today comes the future, its massive burn 

of light. 



Hot silver fog sweeps over the palace. The prince lies shrouded in sleep. From here, she can see the river filling its reed banks under the rapidly whitening sky. River life meditates on its surface: green silver black, tinctured with gold. The castle is still

in shadow: the severe marble arches and towering sentinel trees advise her not to enter: to run, run from the open mouth of these countless frayed and fleshless moments.  



All day long she has tried to cut out her tongue. If she could strain her thoughts clear of impulse, would her screams subside to mere desperation and lust? She’s been here too long. Her syntax slips; her shadow wrenches itself from her feet, and slips free.  



Even the sky has grown stale: wet away-ness, desolation. The wind winds around the rain, an arrangement which shapes the peripheral shadows hanging 

in the leaf-wrought sky.  



The queen fears biblical floods. It’s a sensible fear: every full moon, the tides wash over the palace, and drown the jeweled fish.



Waiting out the tidal floods, Scarlet examines the view from that last Thursday: what did it mean when the prince kissed her on the forehead (three times gently) before he stole her credit cards?  (The cash she had, she’d handed over willingly.)


it’s him every time, she types. the prince in my stomach, the prince in my throat, my heart in his teeth.   



A boy and a girl are one.
A boy and a girl and a royal blackbird are one.



Scarlet presses on, past the landmark that has the audacity to still call itself 




She holds a tiny, tear-shaped object in her hand: it resembles onyx in color, weight, and sheen. She closes her fingers over her palm, gripping it protectively, then swallows the sacred seed, this secret hope

-gift sent by a friend (presumed dead). 


The seed reaches her stomach and speaks 
its prophesy: He will be the death of you, Princess. 
And you will be the death of yourself, too.



Nothing left but mirrors in her former room, dust-covered and reeking of the past

tense. Her hands close into fists. Frantic, random, she runs out to the meadow. She did not invent this 

(so much as invite it in).  



Years before, the queen secretly doctored the palace blueprints; since then, further damage has befallen. Nobody wishes to inform her of this. 


Everyone’s close-lipped approach to Scarlet’s arson surprises her. Even the queen, who would normally be screaming the requisite off with her head! just sits on her throne: only the shadow of a frown alters her sharp-featured face. 



Sometimes, bending in the intensity of the blazing light, Scarlet stops to pick crimson 

flowers. She doesn’t yet understand the difference between dying and death; she plunders the cemetery for poetry.  She cannot tell the living from the dead: everyone looks like a corpse.



Michelle Greenblatt

Michelle Greenblatt (August 21, 1982 - October 19, 2015) was the Poetry Editor for Unlikely Stories: Episode IV and previously served as Co-Editor of Poetry for the now-defunct AND PER SE AND. She was published in literary journals such as Poetry Magazine, Sugar Mule, Free Verse, Altered Scale, Sawbuck, Hamilton Stone Review, Moria, Shampoo, Coconut Poetry, BlazeVOX, X-stream, Counterexample Poetics, Word for/ Word, and Otoliths. Her solo books are brain : storm, (anabasis Press, 2006; Unlikely Books, 2017) and ASHES AND SEEDS (Unlikely Books, 2014). Collaborative books include Ghazals 1-59 and Other Poems with Sheila E. Murphy (Unlikely Books, 2017), Dark Hope with Vernon Frazer (Argotist E-Books, 2011; expanded as Definitions of Obscurity, Unlikely Books, 2016), and jump beast with Jukka-Pekka Kervinian (cPress, 2011). She lived in South Florida with her beloved, Kyle.

You can learn more at our memorial issue.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 21:04