O My Heart, Curled Like a Fist Around Ropes of Blood— TJ Price

the seafarer’s wife

she keeps a bird
that only sings
when it rains,
to muffle the sound
of the world outside
being systematically drowned—

the ceiling leaks,
dripping over the
left side of the bed
where she sleeps.

by 3 AM
we are floating
in our own bedrooms,
laying stiffly
beneath the sheets.

she accuses me through grit teeth
of leaving the window open.
& I, of course,
deny everything.

when the water reaches
the level of our mouths,
we swallow reflexively
until the room is dry.

the outlets drip
with sparks,
snarling like angry dogs
at our waterlogged silence,

& when we sleep,
we wash up on a monochrome shore,
islands away from each other,
in dream—


and the blank-eyed men
are out again,
pious saints of discord
with melted-wax faces
& grasping fingers,
absently adjusting
the ties at their throats
& cracking their necks
from side to side—

they slip sideways between us,
nimble dancers with
poised, gleaming scissors,
snatches of songs 
culled from other lovers
they’ve dissevered—

we never see them
though they live
in our house, share
our bed,
sit in the empty
chairs at suppertime, gorging
themselves on our silence—
while in the dark,
under the table,
the dog whirs & whines 
with alarm

sleep becomes a five-second shudder
between one & two in the morning
and we wake at the same time
afraid to look at one another

and outside, 
the wind shears leaves 
from their branches,
the rain is pounding on the roof
like a thousand tiny fists,
and the sea goes in and out 
of the harbor
like a murderer’s knife—

we hold hands,
watching as the lightning
blotches the sky
like an incandescent rash,
our teeth 
glued together
inside our mouths

when the electricity finally fails
we are plunged into a
bristling, barren black

and when you say
that you love me

all I hear is scissors—


the wallpaper peels.
beneath it,
pulpy fruit she planted
the night of their marriage.
she buried it
with a sly smile
beneath the baseboard,
she crouched,
whispering lovingly to it
after the wring of a summer day
& with sweat
leaking from her brow—

he puts his hand to it
& it comes back to him
sticky, wet—
it has a heartbeat.
he is afraid it will explode,
or rot.

years have passed
since they split in the middle,
since they,
for the first time,
squeezed one another
& writhed in the juices.
he is,
inside himself,
withering, wrinkling—
can feel his organs
dying on the vine

the day will come,
he realizes,
sitting cross-legged on the bed
in the humid dark,
when he will desperately
eat at the walls,
and then, still not sated,
suck out the wine
of his own heart—

TJ Price’s corporeal being is currently located in Raleigh, NC, with his handsome partner of many years, but his ghosts live in north-eastern Connecticut, southern Maine, and North Brooklyn. His work has been published in Coffin Bell Journal, The Bear Creek Gazette and in Pidgeonholes; he also has a novelette (The Disappearance of Tom Nero) forthcoming from Spooky House Press in May 2023. He can be found at tjpricewrites.com or invoked on the blue bird @eerieyore.

photo by Matt Artz and Noita Digital (via unsplash)