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Christine Boyka Kluge
Christine is a poet in North Salem, New York. Above photos by Christine. Christine Boyka Kluge

Pure Hash + Featured Writer
A Collection of Prose Poetry and Flash Fiction

May-June, 2008

Watching Her Soul From Below

I can never tell if her soul is on backward or if it’s just turned inside-out. I only see her at dusk, from a great distance, so I can’t look for telltale silver snaps or pearly buttons. She was always ivory-skinned and faded-eyed, so she and her soul are all of a color anyway. I do see something that sparkles at her neck, like a locket winking gold in the last light, catching my eye over there on the ledge. She perches, swaying, flapping her white arms, and I can only watch, afraid to move. Because she doesn’t want to leave yet, I hold her steady with my eyes. As the light dies, her cries are high and hollow, secret as a dog whistle, just for me. My ears prick to listen for words, but this language has none. With darkness, it disappears, like a voice pulled down a drain.

From below, her soul looks like a hospital gown, but iridescent. Maybe it’s sewn from feathers, white ones with eyes, like albino peacock feathers. On windy evenings it whips around her like a blank silk flag, ready to take the name of any country, all colors of allegiance bleached or blown off over the escarpment. Her soul looks so loose, so slippery, that one night I am sure that a gust will twist and knot it into a pair of wings. They will snap free and soar over her head, leaving her with only her human body, clinging to the cliff edge with its brittle white claws.

The God of Falling Objects

Perhaps you've felt her blue stare, cold as sea glass. She never shuts her all-seeing eyes. She silently watches your keys tumble from your pocket, jingling their unheard brass alarm. When your wedding ring slides from your finger like a greased halo, she doesn't even flinch. Come October, leaves spiral past her indifferent face. She lets them go, never blinking, never beckoning them back to your maple's empty branches.

She watches impassively as babies, dizzy with first steps, teeter at the top of stairs, as flowerpots twitch on window ledges. With equal lack of emotion, she observes the inevitable trajectories of flawed angels and jets. She's numb to the fiery amber and emerald beauty of both meteorites and bombs. Falling tears and eggs, skyscrapers and mountains—they're all the same, plummeting as insignificantly as scrapings from burnt toast. It's useless to try to catch the crumbs of the crumbling universe. It would be absurd to hold out her arms.

Doesn't anyone else notice? The sky is opening its mouth. She can see into its black throat, that shining tunnel of star dust and salt. Apparently only she hears the faint, terrible sound of heaven swallowing its own milky tongue.

Where Babies Come From

The door to the hall closet twitched on its squeaky hinges and jangled its brass knob. There were no voices inside, just a rustling, followed by an occasional light thump. The two people in the closet were lost. One of them looked like she was made of rice paper, like fog dried and ironed, then cut in the shape of a woman. She was a translucent ripple moving through the dark, her eyes torn holes, her fingers cottony threads groping in mildewy shadows. Chiming empty hangers, she rummaged in the pockets of winter coats for mothballs and crumpled receipts, old pennies and lint-covered peppermints, then put them to her tissuey lips to suck, as if she could taste her old life again. But each treasure fell through the tear where a mouth would have been, landing on the wood floor with a plink or a crik.

The other person was an infant girl. She was just arriving to take the woman’s place. She kept her eyes closed tight as raisins, but her nose was alert to the scent of wool and cedar and felt boot liners. Due to her rough journey, the top of her velvety head throbbed and her tender spine ached a bit. The closet felt huge and drafty after the last tight room. She twisted her head left and right, burrowing deeper in a cardboard box of unsorted baby pictures. Her umbilical cord draped over the rim like an extension line ready to be plugged in.

As she fluttered from wall to wall, the woman kept tripping on the cord. Perplexed, she searched for a way out, dropping shreds of her flesh like confetti or snowflakes. Her frustrated pacing stirred the air in the closet into a stale, powdery breeze. The baby was cold. Her tongue arched, and her waxy little fists curled into red snails.

When the alarmed couple followed that first warbling cry and opened the closet door, they found a newborn coated with dust, like a chicken dipped in flour, or a baby excavated in Pompeii. They looked down into the startling red cave of her open mouth and saw, not a uvula, but a tiny figure wriggling in her throat—like a paper doll drowning in a well, too stubborn to go down, holding up her white arms in the impossible hope of being lifted.

All three pieces are part of Stirring the Mirror, a collection of prose poetry and flash fiction, published by Bitter Oleander Press in August, 2007.

"Where Babies Come From" was first published in Quarterly West.

"The God of Falling Objects" was first published in Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics, then in Riverine: An Anthology of Hudson Valley Writers, edited by Laurence Carr (Codhill Press, 2007).

“Watching Her Soul from Below” was first published in Quarter After Eight, then in No Boundaries: Prose Poems by 24 American Poets, edited by Ray Gonzalez (Tupelo Press, 2003).

About the Writer

Christine Boyka Kluge is the author of Stirring the Mirror and Teaching Bones to Fly, both from Bitter Oleander Press. Her chapbook, Domestic Weather, won the 2003 Uccelli Press Chapbook Contest. In January 2008, Christine was chosen as one of City Pages’ 2007 Artists of the Year by poet Ray Gonzalez. She is also a visual artist.

To learn more, visit Christine Boyka Kluge's blog.

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