Joshua Allen

The Land Took the Shape of a Woman / Alex Duensing

The railyards bellow lewd chants outside my skeletal, half-plastered wall: the chucking mechanics incanting a cultish moan. I don’t know what they ask for though they never stop asking. They never let me sleep until, with cobwebbed eyes, I strangle my pillow, giving up. Dawn draws closer each time I freeze and shiverwalk around, my palms wiping warmth along my arms. My shirt billows looser each night. A train howls and far out, through the screen of sideways snow, the city lights never change. Downstairs, Mom clatters dishes—her hands shake now. Soon, she’ll rest on the burnt couch watching infomercials for desirable things as she knits clothes to keep me warm. With her hands, she makes them uneven—the best hat slants, covering only one ear. She’s embarrassed how red the other is when I come home late. I tell her I like the other ear better, but she frets about my looks, saying I’d need them when people begin to look at me. After dinner, we sit silent on the couch, covered by four comforters, watching reruns of All in the Family. She laughs without laughing aloud, her body shaking. We don’t light the fireplace anymore, but we keep each other warm for a half-hour; if it’s nearing zero, we’ll huddle for an hour. A dish shatters downstairs and the world hiccups. The workers are on break. In the morning, I will be eighteen; I could lengthen the silence, but I wrap myself in her quilt and wait for the sound to return. There’s always another absence to fill.

Joshua Allen is a junior attending Indiana University Bloomington.

Alex Duensing. Graduate of William Paterson and Columbia? Yes. Ran for St. Petersburg, FL, City Council? Yes. Won? No. Stopped Mayan Apocalypse on rooftop with performance art? Yup. Strange but nice fellow? Clearly. Able to create mechanical engines that run completely on the energy a person creates while appreciating a painting? Not yet.