hic svnt elephantis

On maps the continent of Memory is terra incognita, colored uniformly with jungle. Explorers beware: its uncharted savannahs reveal yawning crevasses, the upthrust curve of bleached bone, cracked ribs and shattered tusks reaching skyward. Mourn here with the other shadows, and leave.


Monday swore to hide my secrets in the cave behind her painted lips.
She lured them with promises and kept them in cages of bone beneath her reddened cheek.
The prison walls were fantasies of painted paper, imitation steel.
Her silence delayed discovery; elicited denials became my eventual delight.
Now I inscribe her indiscretions on your skin.
Each mark a memorandum of her lapse.

Control is Tuesday’s watchword. She accepts neither weakness nor lapse.
I am deafened by promises, searching for the shape of my name on her lips.
I have memorized the bones of her wrist, her ankle, those limitless flashes of forbidden skin.
I am caught in the hollow of your throat, my love, the curve of your cheek.
Your laughter is the sound of my delight
But your joy is cold as steel.

Chains of words bind my Wednesday more surely than I could master her with steel.
I praise every merit, castigate each lapse.
Drafting the terms of penalties becomes my constant delight.
Forbidden phrases bleed from her lips.
Your chatter is not the equal of her cheek;
Her memory is not the bruise on your skin.

Thursday watches me through half closed eyes, the way I watch my hands moving over the landscape of your skin.
The sight of this goes through her like the needle before the steel.
I pretend not to notice; I turn the other cheek.
We speak of neither your discipline nor your lapse.
In the hours between now and then she pretends her lover tastes her with my lips.
In her dreams my hands chart the territory of her ecstasies and claim the peaks of her delight.

Friday’s discipline is my delight.
I have stripped her and exposed the scars beneath her skin.
I keep my counsel behind the shuttered windows of her eyes and the locked door of her lips.
She eschews swords for words; her voice tempers sentences like steel.
She plots a course around my error and corrects my judgment in its lapse.
For each of these things I tolerate her temerity and cheek.

I reflect on Saturday, eye to eye and cheek to matching cheek.
Where I find only blank oblivion, she sketches the outlines of intangible delight.
We wait the passage of hours together, each ticking second an unforgivable lapse.
Bookended by weeks we live within the covers of our shared skin.
How lonely other days seem in their cases of steel-
Unable to taste the poetry of silent lips.

No tear stains my cheek, no cry parts my lips.
I describe my delight in the permanence of stone and steel.
This momentary lapse burns like your fleeting touch upon my skin.

This sestina was brought to you by Christine, and by the words lips, cheek, steel, delight, skin, and lapse. And by the Oxford Comma.

Our Turn

“He should be fine, now, OK?” Brandy says, handing Oscar back to me. The little jerk immediately puts his paw on my boob and sits up, which he hasn’t been willing or able to do in a week. “He just needed some doggy chiropractic lovin’.”

“Great, thanks, Brandy. How much do I owe ya?” Not that I care, since it’s a tax writeoff anyway. All the money I spend on the rescue dachshunds, that’s an above the line deduction. Plus the whole thing got easier when I started working for Chiaroscuro full time instead of Caliginosis. Holly loves having the pups in the office, says they calm everybody down. Not that anyone needs calming but Cali.

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