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Author: R. Riley McCourt

Game dev by day, writer by hobby.
The Witching Cities: Prologue

The Witching Cities: Prologue

Once, in the far north, there was a witch of vast primordial power who shared a dream with a human. Together, they built a magnificent city at the edge of the tundra, whose light became a beacon to all humanity. Craft and knowledge crystallized in the utopia birthed by the witch and human’s covenant, but a day came on which the covenant was broken, and the city was destroyed by the armies of man, its people massacred. With the dream shattered, the witch returned to her city’s ruins and sequestered herself among the graves for time uncounted, slowly passing from human memory in all but the sparse myths shared among the races of men. There she waited, bound to the ashes of the once-great city.

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Complications

Complications

We used to clamber down the river on hands and knees—there weren’t any bugs then—

and sure, we used to dismember slugs and release their inner sleaze, and there weren’t any bugs
then.

 

Once we stumbled down the slope of your rain-soaked, wooded acres to swim in your pond.

There were bats, and there was thunder, and our flashlight shot up the trees, but there weren’t
any bugs then.

 

Once we wobbled through Boston’s March cold without coats and shouted our early morning
breath,

and I bestowed upon you, dense as you are, half-joking cruelties, but at least there weren’t any
bugs then.

 

Once I found an earthworm and called him friend. I propped him on my slide

and left him, a tiny emperor in the sun. He baked, crisp nobility, and there weren’t any bugs
then.

 

Our plans fell apart when we reached your pond. We watched the bats in silence,

waiting for just one of us to feel unashamed of our triple nudities; after all, there weren’t any
bugs then.

 

And after our trip through the cold, I hid in your room while you conversed with drunks,

and for a time, you know, I hated parties, but at least there weren’t any bugs then.

 

I don’t remember what I did with that tiny king, a question mark in his last moments,

but I suspect I swept him away without anything funerary, and, hey, there weren’t any bugs then.

 

Even now we crawl down the river on hands and knees through the mosquitoes that assault us,

and ah, but Riley, I suspect they are vengeful for my multitude of tiny brutalities although you
and I know there weren’t any bugs then.

Miss Bishop, Waiting

Miss Bishop, Waiting

This poem takes inspiration from Elizabeth Bishop’s “In The Waiting Room” a copy of which can be read here.

 

I did not sit in a dentist’s office,

struck by the potent arbitrary presence of humanity,

but rather I laid in bed,

cozy in a Strawberry Fields room.

Seven years old, I stared into my white ceiling,

contemplating the darkness of death,

the possibility

of not existing at all.

Four Eyes

Four Eyes

She holds a thin string of glass between her fingers, sets the safety glasses on her nose, and freezes. The stunned faces around her mirror her own vacated expression as blood rolls into her eye. She blinks. She pulls the glass out of her eyebrow, pulls it straight until she can see the pointed end of it, sets it down, and takes off the safety glasses. She walks into the bathroom and begins to wash the blood away, but the near miss continues to drip. The teacher corrects her when he comes. He helps her stop the bleeding, and she watches his blue eyes as he stretches a bandage over her tiny wound.

Food Baby

Food Baby

When she eats, her belly swells outward. It draws her away from daily life, propping her sideways in the mirror where she lifts her shirt and pushes the obtrusion back into her body. It pops out when she lets go, and she forces it back in, just to reaffirm the possibility. She tells herself that real babies take months to grow, not hours, and she repeats the process, pushing in, popping out, pushing in again. When she is convinced of the bulge’s impermanence, she returns to her day until the protrusion catches her eye. Then she is sideways in the mirror again, with her hands on her belly, telling herself that real babies take longer.

Untitled, 2003 (of which there are actually several, it turns out)

Untitled, 2003 (of which there are actually several, it turns out)

This poem is based on a work by Marcel Dzama entitled Untitled 2003.

Nurses grow poppies—

or tomatoes.

A nurse grows,

and there are lions and boars—

birds of prey—

they have each other’s bodies—

men with feline faces and breasts

under the bristles of hogs—

they are the aphids on our tiger lilies.

Pluck a Chinese dragon from

the branches of your staring poppy/tomato plant;

tell me that it does not swoon!

for it is beneath your iron grasp, and—

that smug smirk of yours;

why do you detest nature?—

give me the zodiac animal, and

I shall save him from the jeers

of your raucous bulbs. Go—

grow your flowers elsewhere, sweet nurse;

there is no call for talking fruit.

To My Readers

To My Readers

There’s a tentacle monster on my ceiling.

He’s a knitted lime ball with wiggling appendages

and one large brown eye, half-lidded.

I could call him Weary,

christening him after his attitude.

He looks into my cluttered room,

the disheveled piles categorically sorted,

the bed unmade and covered in crumbs,

and passes judgment in silence.

If I turn him around

his bored gaze will roll down Tremont St.

where the light from the Loews Theatre

casts red undulations over my ceiling.

Did you know they turn the sign off

at 2:14 in the morning?

I don’t know when they turn it on.

Cool headlights file down Tremont

between hollow orange streetlights,

and, if it’s a Friday, cars will fill the three lanes,

people will fill the sidewalk,

and I will lie awake and listen to them shout.

;

;

After a long battle against striations

            his monitors gone to cloud

His keys are filled with ginger ale

            and his semicolons fallen off

Ive broken his latch

            and he burns my thighs

His battery lifes too short

            and that cocky frenetic screen winks at me

I might have salvaged him

            bound to his circuits by two years of companionship

but Ive newer machines to coddle

            so Ill immortalize my longtime companion

with the insincere punctuation from his board

Mutations

Mutations

He sits on his desk like a yogi and stares out the window, watching the traffic roll down Tremont Street. Occasionally it squawks, but he doesn’t seem to notice; only the people in the crosswalk, on the Common, on the sidewalks capture his attention. Hunched in his hoodie, he swivels slightly to follow the progress of a woman in a yellow raincoat. Now he leans toward the far edge of his window to observe a man crossing the intersection diagonally. Another catches his eye, and Scott says, “Either that’s Michael or a lady,” and I, lying in his bed with a literary tome in my lap, laugh at our own joke.

I am him two hours from now, when he stops being Scott and becomes myself just to get his homework done, and the girl standing in the closet, looking at herself in the mirror and wondering if her pants are flattering or not is him the next morning. As for the boy on the Common who runs from his parents and through the pigeons, causing them to shatter, fragmentary, into the air, that is him on a date next Saturday.

For now, though, he is searching the crowds for hope, and, not finding it there, he is beginning to search the cars too. He knows he won’t find what he’s looking for, but he searches anyway because he would like to hope. This is in spite of the person he will be in four hours who, when the red glare of Loews Theatres snaps off and he is left alone with his thoughts, will snarl and rage against him for having thought of hope at all.

Being Scott doesn’t bother him as much as being someone else might, and as he presses his face against the window thinking, “Is that—No, he doesn’t have the right hat,” he finds a strange contentment in the melancholy blank that comes from watching innumerable strangers parade through their seemingly fulfilled lives while he sits dumb on his desk, studying a series of worlds he doesn’t know how to be a part of. Something within him shifts slightly and although the man entering the subway station at one corner of the intersection isn’t the hope he’s seeking, he finds a smile building within himself so that, when two hours have passed, he does not become me. Instead he is Rose who stands on what is now her desk and places her hands on the window, kissing the skyline. She reaches down to the amassed detritus of daily life and removes a lipstick suitable only to burlesque musicals. She smears it across her lips, flashes her teeth to no one in particular, and draws on the window. She admires her handiwork for a moment before reaching under the desk for a paper towel to wipe the make-up from her face, beginning her transmutation into someone else.

By the time she has stepped off the desk, she has become me, prepared to engage the studious routine of literary analysis. I prop myself in what is now my bed and hold the biblically fragile pages of the text between my fingers, thoughts of hope lost amidst thoughts of poesy.