Noir by Julia Mishkin



Someone has placed Arum lilies in the vase by the window

and she raises her hand to trace the shape,


her fingers never touching him,

his head held close enough, she can feel his breath


against her cheek and his hand resting on her waist,

the slight pressure—how correct, the pressure—


as she sways slightly the music slows, dims,

he feels the fabric of her dress against his hand,


cool silk, redolent of leaves, that small hollow

the long slide down, the knoll,


pressing his face against it, 

the scent, someone tracking him


and the edging of the sun

through the afternoon haze, that autumn sun


that rises unbearably hot and then fades—

she moves her hand on his arm, only a slight movement—


the counterpoint, the music

which has shifted again, her eyes drifting,


a dazzle, everything white, pure, no color

so she can inject what she wants


as he moves against her, his hand tightening

on her waist (the old well-house


with its smell of earth)

and she remembers what it was, that song


with its hesitations, the ecstatic strings,

her hand inches slightly up his shoulder


to curve around his neck, she can feel

his blood (the slow ascent, their footprints filling)



the leaves decaying fast

beneath their feet, the floor of the forest


seeding a silver streak, and rain.

The smell of earth.




What is this he holds in his hand?

The flesh has been eaten away.


Nearby her sweater brightens.

A packrat has nested there


and used her hair as a cushion.

Such a blank, the emptied stare,


the bones of her left arm

slipped under his right as if


she had been holding tight.

He was telling her about the room


he slept in, the sound of breathing

through the walls, someone turning


over and over without rest,

without pause, as if sleep


was a long climb alone in the dark.

I know the bottom he said.


I live there and never come up,

not for light or air.




Drought by Julia Mishkin



The wind comes off the fields

like a whip and the air snaps

and lurches. And because

there is no moisture in it

you think of it as dry ice

smoking at the fingertips.

As it is there were many times

you cursed water in great detail,

hating the sequence of drops

on the casement window, the gutters

overflowing with the season's leavings.

Or that recurring dream

of drowning, the surge of water

discharging under the skin:

everything waterlogged,

people in the street moving

around you as if navigating

a flooded back road.

Now it's the wind you loathe,

everything seen through a haze,

ochre cornfields with one

vertical line, a gray

and opaque thread of smoke.

This indistinct world furnishes

other worlds, you can almost

chart the movement, like waves,

or the arms of swimmers stroking

fast, the air empurpled

with splinters of ocean. 








© 2005-2009 Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas

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Julia Mishkin