Seeing Double

The field lies abandoned, and her face
Is fouled with fragments of a former time:
A single sole of rubber, rotted lace,
and leather upper, under streaks of grime.

My sight may skip across this vacant view,
And leave the broken boot to settle by:
It’s just another path to travel through,
Another pointless journey for my eye.

Or should the boot my inattention irk,
To tug at tufts of tales yet untold,
And chase away the unacknowledged murk,
That cloys and keeps me captive in its hold?

Both views are mine, and both are there to see
To pass or to be present, the choice remains with me.


This piece was written for Nika Harper’s Wordplay #6. The challenge was iambic verse, with the prompts “a leather boot laying by a field” and “a choice.”


My Momma told me ghosts aren’t real. She said it all serious-like, as I snuggled between her and Pop on the couch.

“They sure look real,” I said, peeking at the billowing apparition on the screen, but she hushed me, told me it was just “special effects,” whatever that means.

My Momma knew everything, it seemed back then, but it turns out she was every bit as clueless as the rest of us.

We found her in a gutter. She didn’t look dead, not really. Cold and pale, but still Momma. Her eyes were wide open, unchanged, and I thought she was alive until the stench hit me. Ain’t no other word for it: that smell near knocked me over, all rest-homes and public bathrooms wrapped in old boiled cabbage.

I don’t remember the next few minutes, waiting for the police to arrive, except for one thing: Momma’s hand, still wrapped tight around a wilted white lily. They said it took ages to remove it from her grip, so we had lilies for the funeral, lilies for Momma.

They said it wasn’t murder, not exactly. “They” were always saying stupid shit, anyway. Said he was only trying to rape her, like that was somehow better. Only hit her to stop her screaming. Didn’t know his own strength. Then came the cries of “police brutality,” of “procedural misconduct” and “mitigation.”

Momma told me excuses were little kisses from the devil. At least she was right about that.

She talked to me at night, sometimes. I’d lie in bed, staring at the dark patterns on the ceiling, then the shadows would darken, blotting out the streetlight from outside, and Momma would whisper to me, telling me it would be all right, telling me what to do. I couldn’t hold her any more, but her voice soothed me to sleep.

I took him a lily, after his acquittal. I chose it special, from the bunch on Momma’s grave. It hadn’t yet reached full-bloom, and hung poised on the verge of beauty, its creamy folds still coyly concealing secrets and whispers in its shadows.

He already reeked of booze, was hitting the clubs and searching for a girl, any girl. He looked right through me, seeing just another pair of legs, another fuck waiting to happen, willing or not.

I led him outside, silently offering him the lily, a chance to repent. He ignored the flower, letting it drop, its head denting on the pavement without a sound.

He shoved me roughly against a wall and opened his pants, then I opened him up, like Momma had told me.

The knife slid in deep, and we both blossomed.

Momma still whispers to me at night. She tells me where to go, how to get by. They say I’m a murderer, a vigilante psycho.

They look for me, but they don’t have my Momma on their side.

She tells me who to visit, and I take them each a flower.


This piece was written for Nika Harper’s Wordplay #5. The challenge was ghost stories, with the prompts “a needed conversation” and “lillies to say goodbye.”

The Shutter Blinks Twice

The detective was a drunken buffoon. I didn’t need to smell the brandy reeking from his breath: the very air of his office was an ethanolic haze.

I felt my heels sticking to the unwashed vinyl floor, and wondered again what I was doing in this dump.

He leered at me across his desk, bloodshot eyes trying to manipulate their way into my low-cut dress. His gut was strategically positioned beneath the battered leather surface, and he sat up a little straighter, trying to mimic some semblance of a man in his prime.

Once his gaze had cradled my cleavage for long enough, I decided to get on with it. There was only one way this was going down.

“I’d like my photographs, Mr Rubens.”

“Call me Clive.” He squinted suspiciously at my face now, trying to figure out which client I was and how much booze had made him forget me. He tried for professional, falling a thousand miles short. “Er, I’ve been rather busy lately, so you’ll need to refresh my memory?”

“Cut the crap, Clive. You’ve done sweet fuck all for the last six months. ”

The cursing did it: not what he expected from a classy-looking dame. A flash of calculation paraded over his face, fireworks and all, and he prepared to bullshit me.

“Oh, those photographs. Well, I’d love to help, sweetheart, I really would…” I hoped that wasn’t his seductive tone – the voice could have congealed water – but managed to conceal my shudder, “… buuut there’s just a little problem: I don’t have them no more.”

His eyes flickered at this last, pausing on an oversized print on the wall, cartoonish flowers and realistic mold colonies. The greasy handprints in the frame were very subtle.


“Huh?” Now he was genuinely lost.

“You don’t have them any more.”

“That’s what I said.”

“So they wouldn’t be, say, in the safe over there?”

His eyes again visited the print, though I hadn’t indicated any part of the room.

In a second, I was across the office, flicking the hinged painting forward to reveal… A hole in the wall, bulging with envelopes and receipts. The sad bastard had sold the safe to support one of his habits.

He was gulping now, trying to climb from the sagging chair, to comical effect. My trained hands shuffled through the envelopes, finding what I wanted before he could decide what to do.

“Stay seated, Mr Rubens. I believe this is what I came for.” He sank back down, defeated without even throwing a punch. Even I felt sorry for him.

“Here’s what’s going to happen, Mr Rubens: I’ll walk out this door, and you’re going to tell your client that you fucked up, that the film was overexposed.” I continued, before he could muster up the courage to interrupt, “If you follow me, or fail to comply, I will publish these photos.” I slipped a small folder across his desk. He looked inside, turned pale, and nodded.

Back in my hotel room, I stripped off the vaguely clinging wisps of fabric, changing into something a little more comfortable, and far more modest. I washed off the ridiculous makeup and brewed a pot of black tea, steeped to perfection. Myself again, I called the agency. “It’s done, Denise. Mrs Jackson can proceed with the suit. That pervert won’t be helping her husband any more. You can wire the balance to my account.”

It’s not always a pleasant business, watching the watchers, but it is very lucrative.

This piece was written for Nika Harper’s Wordplay #3. The challenge was noir fiction, with the prompts “the photographer” and “the other view.”


She sits,
not poised at the edge of dramatic abyss,
but snuggled deep in that old couch,
her lover’s arms,
wrap around her too, in memory at least –
too many layers of dust have settled since,
and those phantom limbs
now sway unsullied by muscle cramps,
no pins-and-needles prompting new positions,
– just a glossed-over distillation of those perfect moments
that never really happened.

The couch is real, though,
its depths concealing spores of mold and more memories,
stains of several lifetimes, their passage through the flat,
loves lived, lost and longed-for,
and still the couch remains –

Or would, if not for her:
the couch, the room, the building gone.

Not to ash, as she expected,
but to a skeleton of vague proportions
Ribs and springs and incongruous tufts of stuffing
Coated in soot, no longer a couch, but still more than nothing.

Still more than her lover:
a figment only, created and destroyed
a thousand times in desperate daytime dreamings,
by the crumpled form who sits, if “sits” is fair,
still smothered by the couch, or couch remains,
still now, in every way.


This piece was written for Nika Harper’s Wordplay #2. The challenge was free-verse, with the prompts “memories” and “the reason it isn’t there.”