A Familiar Stranger by Karla Cordero

I. Seven Words

He’s always been a deep sleeper. She visits his face. Two flies surround the slight entrance of his mouth. She swats at their intrusion, only to find the corner of a piece of paper clamped between his lips. She tugs the paper delicately between thumb and index causing an opening of the mouth. The smell of shredded carcass burns her eyes to a water. A black beetle gnaws at the edge of his tongue. She extracts the rest of the paper from what was once a pink fleshed organ. She unfolds the damp material. Only seven words, Guilt is a hard thing to swallow.

II. A Shower after Dinner

She flushes the goldfish down the toilet. This is how she copes with her anger. After dinner she jumps into the shower. She runs conditioner through her hair. Allows the soap to burn her eyes. A small object pushes through the shower nozzle, slapping her on the forehead, and dives to the bottom of the wet tile. She looks down to find a goldfish flopping between her toes. This is how the goldfish copes with her anger.

III. The Hunger After He Leaves You

My lips push on each other between front teeth. The tearing of skin welcomes the taste of blood on my palate. I reach into the fish tank and cage Goldy between my palm and fingers. I lay his fragile body on a Pyrex. It’s an easy task to spray Pam on Goldy’s body, as he flops against glass. I place the Pyrex into the oven at 350 degrees. I watch through the oven window with a glass of Pinot Noir. His gills surrender the struggle at the coming of heat. Scales turn a metallic orange to a fine golden crisp. Eyes bulge from pinhole sockets. At the sound of the timer, I scrape Goldy onto a ceramic plate pulled from the fine China cabinet. Beethoven on vinyl orchestrates the rest of our evening. I shred the delicate meat from his body and savor the little he has to offer. I pull a tin box from under the sink, unlock the lid with a key from my charm bracelet. I scrape Goldy’s remains onto a pile of tiny skeletons. Lock the box and go to bed full.

Karla Cordero is an MFA student at San Diego State University studying creative writing under Sandra Alcosser and Illya Kaminsky. She is an associate editor for Poetry International and her work has appeared in The California Journal of Women Writers. In 2013, Cordero helped the San Diego poetry slam team place 4th in the country at the National Poetry Slam in Boston. Her awards include the Sarah B. Marsh-Rebelo Fellowship.

Lead image“You’re Doing It Wrong” (via Flickr user Flood G.)