+ Featured Writer
A Collection of Prose Poetry and Flash Fiction
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
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
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.
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