Chella Courington

Clouds

The first thing I remember of Winston Walker 
is that Saturday afternoon he shot me
in the eye. BB the size of a mockingbird
iris and about as yellow. Arm draped 
over the fence, I watched him walking
toward me. Cock Pop Cock Pop. 
Wasps nested. Screams covered me.

Ice cubes froze the sting blue. Weeks later
my sight, sharp as ever. But the pasty scar tissue 
turned my head down, hid the eye behind 
cloud cover. No meteor showers 
visible.  Just an ugly white 
glob Winston Walker called an accident
no doctor could erase till I was sixteen

and had moved to Atlanta. He scraped clouds
off blue iris—ashen crater in its place.
When I raised my lid, the sky appeared.
After twenty years Winston Walker telephoned.
Honest to God, I just wanted to scare you.
Said he dreamed I shot him full 
of Adriamycin exploding under his skin

infrared starbursts burning every breathing cell.
Then, in November, I expected him at New Hope 
to be cremated, ashes scattered where he hunted 
whitetail deer. In a simple casket he 
was lowered near his mother. Shadows 
passed through us—Canadian geese gliding 
toward the Gulf.
Close to the Edge

Fog on the horizon 
hides hard island edges. 
Near the patio 
sprinklers swish: streams rise 
in sun before falling in the garden. 
Six plastic-pink flamingoes 
parade by the sago palm.
A pair of dolphins, together
still after twenty years, watch
from the granite fountain.

Stripping an apple, peel swinging
in air, I think of Mother 
who sliced what grew around her.
From wood the size of playing cards 
she whittled small animals: 
our cat on haunches, neck turned. 
She carved a woman 
on her knees, mostly stomach, 
hands buried her bowed face.

Santa Ana winds blow dry 
scatter dust in their wake. 
Hummingbirds circle coral bells.
Their wings, shadow puppets 
on stucco. Heavy with petals 
dahlias bend to rocky dirt. 
Once I caught a Regal Moth— 
panes of ruby and jade.
For three days, she flew.

Tonight my namesake calls
voice gravelly, emerging
from Minnesota. At 18 Satan
and God crowd her head.
No meds can wash them out. 
God will kill you for leaving me.
I squeeze the receiver
not forgetting her butterfly nightshirt—
wings pressed against me.

***

Chella Courington (she/they) is a writer and teacher whose poetry and fiction appear in numerous anthologies and journals including Anti-Heroin Chic, Lavender Review, and San Pedro River Review. With six chapbooks of poetry, she recently published a lyrical novella, Adele and Tom: The Portrait of a Marriage (Breaking Rules Publishing). A Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, and Best of the Net Nominee, Courington was raised in the Appalachian south and now lives in California.