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Nicole Oquendo and Mike Shier


The tar I weave around my tongue tastes of you, as if you: a basket for storing secrets. Without parting my lips I tell you this is how we scrape along.

Asking me to become elemental is more natural than slipping off a scarf or shedding a skin. I have always considered the idea of binding us so tight we melt together into more than conglomerate. I do not want you—rather, amalgamation. When you drove the car I chanted for some accident. I could give him my blood, I think. Or in another dream, where you whisper, it is your voice I hear buried under all this ash. The chamber echo wraps us up.


I dream of fire often. It's usually what ends us, but once and once only you obliged me while we only made it as far as the bank. Climb up on this wall, and we do to have a better view of rolling death while the stone crumbles a bit below us and my feet dangle and I pull you to me and kiss you until something gives and we are skeletons aside each other.

Sometimes we live, but we will both die. The thought of living without you is akin to living without blood. My skin would dangle, a loose-fitting suit, just before I crumpled. Or, I would rest your body inside a cave while I guarded the mouth, pacing a circle. I do not worry about dying, then, while my heart rattles. I cover you with flowers.

Or if you lived and there was a chance the inside of you tasted like coins, and below that still, ash, and below that still, if there was a chance we dove underwater and didn't burn up, but breathed in and out still alive and wet and safe, what then? The sand around us would be glass and we ourselves reflected there, undulating; if it all ended here among the foam and tiny biting fish or even boiling water, I wouldn't know, because the only choice would be to drown, weaving arms and legs in darts and shakes and hair that curled around it all, stretching towards the surface while we sank.


Because I think there's something you're trying to tell me, something perambulating on your tongue always sticky with the tar of deception. Will it come out this time? Tell me of those dreams again.

Sometimes they are things of absurdity; you: on an away mission on some other planet we could never hope to visit; me: merely window dressing. The lifeform we encounter asks you to change your form, to become elemental, as I would ask you to change your jacket or scarf. You merely consider the idea of fire and your skin sizzles. I am eating a roast chicken I brought in a picnic basket, wholesale, unimpressed, as you fly over me an inkblot of flame. It would be whimsical and so fucking twee but there's always something sinister. There's always that one thing.


The other dreams. The ones where there is a missile coming and you're so sure one of the kim-jong's sent it (the dictator changes depending on how lucid you are) and you wail until the face of Osiris appears and you beg him in perfect iambic pentameter to save your life but I come along and pull those rotten brains out through your nose with a hook (an asp? sometimes it's an asp) until the reveal that you are just a skeleton, some carbonizing calcium aflame.

Then others with more fire. Skulls on fire, poets advancing with flamethrowers row upon row upon row upon row upon row upon row upon row, from devil-mouthed caves in Vietnam, the specter of My Lai, flames framing unholy and unreadable insignias high in the heavens; flames busting out of mountainous cloud-forms, spraying hot coals and embers and showers of cinders and clinkers on those poor beings below.

Or when they are more personal, more personal to you and me, the dreams where the sky is suddenly on fire and you beg me to save you, like there's something I can do to stop the apocalypse, but we decide to drive to the ocean and you swear you saw contrails but we're beating them we're beating them we're about there and we pass a part of the beach where the sand has turned to glass but you say to keep going to keep going and there's some sand that's still powder, we take it down to the water. Over our shoulders we can see the wall of fire, you say, and we go under thinking the water will insulate us. But then, you know, you just want to hold my hand when it all ends and I oblige, and this is the kicker, like that stupid frog in the pan of water, we had no idea how hot the water had gotten and the last thing you feel is our bones, gritty, intertwining.

Still, I'll be silent on omens.

➥ Nicole Oquendo Bio

➥ Mike Shier Bio