Everyone has a story. These are yours.

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By: T.K. Retke

Far from home, my bare feet left prints in the garden’s black soil
As I uprooted weeds and sowed wheat in an amber field.
My Father had warned me to crush the heads of serpents,
Lest they spit in my eye and strike my tender heel.
As forewarned, a serpent silently slinked in the reeds,
Silver scales shimmering in the light of the setting sun.
He salivated venom that dripped like honey, but smelled of sulfur,
As he sang an unholy hymn as he beckoned me closer:
“You have an unusual dual protrusion,
Perhaps a flaw in your evolution.
For hands to sow and the columns that rest on your feet
Are frivolous projections you will not need.
I will infect you without lifting a finger,
And although it is not my intention,
Long after I’m gone, the melody will linger,
And I will curse you with my affliction.
First begin the tremors;
Your muscles will strain and quiver until your mouth sprays sea foam,
Your eyes will fill with opaque blood,
As your blue and purple lips silently scream for Home.
Second, comes the scorch;
Your veins will ignite like kindling in the desert,
Your throat will fill with boiling sand,
And you will writhe on your soft belly in the dirt.
Finally comes the expulsion;
The last exhale of warm air from pink lungs,
Then, your body is my temple for the taking.”

 I listened, entranced, as I clasped my hands to quiet the shaking.
Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Pexels.com


By: T.K. Retke

Death is white.
Other cartoonish characterizations are made by those who watch too much television
(don’t sit so close, it’ll ruin your sight)
And stare at a mosaic of pixels in every spectrum of color like stained glass windows
(remember that nostalgia can cloud your vision).

White is the color of bleached tiles in the hospital waiting room
(I’ve counted almost every one)
And the shuffling of fluttering sterile coats like doves’ wings
(I had to start over, I miscounted)
When unfamiliar people relay the immanent, the inevitable, and the penultimate.
(there are a hundred tiles on the floor so far)

White is the color of the tissue they give you to stifle your wails and plug your leaking face
(three of the tiles are now puddled with salt water, someone will have to clean that)
It is the color of crumbling headstones in the cool shade of the cemetery
(I counted at least a thousand) 
And it is the color of the mosaic of ovals I held that moonless night in palm
(I counted those too, how many do you think it would take?)

White is the color of flesh without blood and bones without flesh
(a pedantic artist once told me that white is the absence of color)
But absence is present, permeating, and pervasive like a frozen wind.
So I suppose Death is pale, because after all
A mosaic of all white tiles is probably just a wall.
Photo by Siobhan Dolezal on Pexels.com

Railroad Crossing

By: T.K. Retke

I commuted daily on your malevolent train of thought,
As it chugged along the dark matter tracts of your sulci
Striking deals with unwilling passengers and calling yourself conductor 
Before tying them to the tracks is your modus operandi. 
With a final scream,
And a spew of steam,
This fucking train has derailed.
“From all of us in hell, thank you for riding with us,
And if you survived, we bid you farewell.”
Photo by Maycon Marmo on Pexels.com

A Comedy in Three Parts

By: T.K. Retke

Stage One
We bustle about, clogging the arteries of roads and shopping centers
sweating under the heat of the bright lights
in our periphery, darkened silhouettes watching
we avert our eyes as he sacrifices our son on the altar of false candor
and we dance in the dark of the wings until our muscles ache.
(the crowd claps)
Stage Two
We collectively try to breathe; inflate, deflate the superego
muscles strain and shake under the weight
bones shatter and break as we sway up the mountain
just to tumble back down again.
(the crowd cheers)
Stage Three
We try to sing, but only silence aggressively vacillates the air
the silhouettes have left their gilded seats
the buzzards begin to eat our shiny exposed liver
lights dim to a soft amber, and we collapse and cut our teeth.
(the crowd riots)
for what do We do when we stand on the brink of our own mortality
besides roll back down again and again for eternity?
and what is comedy truly,
if not a well- rehearsed tragedy.
Photo by Danielle Rangel on Pexels.com


By: T.K. Retke

A man with silver hair who wore his clerical collar like a noose 
Told me two golden circles would save my immortal soul
And if I let anyone smear mud in the tabernacle,
Like a leper, I would not be wanted.
So I cauterized the bleeding arteries of my heart
And I lied in white sheets with my thighs bound by rope
For 700 days and 699 nights.

A man with black hair who wore nothing but muddy leather shoes
Told me one circle was the price for conditional love
And if I could let him swim in the brackish waters,
Like a lover, I would be wanted.
So I ripped open my ribcage and exposed the blue veins of my thrumming heart,
And after, checked my neck for lesions and my sheets for blood,
But I found none for 99 nights.

A man with blonde hair who wore his father’s signet and malignant intent
Told me four amber circles in highball glasses satiated any lack of love
And I was safe to sink my demons in bubbles and dash them on the rocks.
Like a liar, he was unwanted.
The hands that shackled me to the bed burned my skin and burst the vessels in my wrists
So I ran home alone in the snow and threw back the sheets, sure there was a stain.
But I found none, even that night.

A man with brown hair who wore caps to conceal the dark corners of his brain
Sold me for thirty silver circles to his reflection in the pond,
And forced me to break my spine to better align with his axis.
Like a lune, I was eclipsed.
So I sewed up my bones and cut my hair, unwilling to be a mere echo.
I checked my face for bruises from his words and the sheets for stains.
But I found none any night before, or since.

I paced in my bed in circles, pondering and fasting,
The arcs of my history forming a sharp crown over my head.
Yet the tabernacle remained untouched,
And the white sheets unstained.

And night gave way to morning, 
and mourning to understanding.
No amount of violences, coercions, or transgressions
Could mark me for all the nights of my life.
I am still my own. 
For the body resides in cycles temporarily,
But the soul still abides,
In circles,

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