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December 6, 2022

a blue dove hymnal

Leslie Cairns

When I’m alone, I finally flap. I’m 90s generation:  an X or Y or Z, where only boys were told they could be sparrows, birds, or contoured condors. I turn the knob of my silver, wheezing stereo—or in my mind I do—now replaced with pods, untangled phones. In my mind, I preserve: it’s still just knobs, the way the stress peeled off like flecks of paint from disaster zones, as you played Sk8ter & put a ring on it & boxes to the left. Making arms flap, flap, flap, flap. Four times each. With my adidas shoes, my mismatched black tennis socks, an oversized henley, you wouldn’t think—in the outside world—I would be the type to regulate. There is no type, I say, as I toe heel my tennis shoes into weary carpet. Let my braid slash across my back like this is it, this is it. 


I’m a dove scurrying toward the hymnal blue lake, ripples fanning out, freckled with sunspots, as if we finally made it. I already know I flap to feel my bones. I flap to become eighth notes, then sixteenth, then falsetto. Triple time, then my fingers move to notes I’d play if I were near a piano. I know player pianos; I know how to crescendo; I know how to be utterly alone with the sway of music that doesn’t judge you.


At the office, I smile. Nod. Honestly, I even almost curtsy. I want to be belly up, secure, never being left forgotten by somebody. I’m the optimist with pencil skirts, coffee, endless swishing. People find me sweet and culling. When I come home, the day evaporates. I bid social signals goodbye with a scream; my body flows into a question mark of my own creation. I’m making arms sputter until my husky cocks her head at me, wondering why I move in such anxiety spirals. I tell her I’ve held in the stemming all day because people say so. Yet, here, with these half-notes, these girl powers, these haunted arpeggios: I’m anything. I jump, sparkle & boom clap transcends radio. I go. I flap. The words collide & they make more sense when they break open: flap, go, boom. Goodbye. Moon. Hung. Upside-Down. Metapod. 


I’m seeing days in words gone broken. Sunset streaks into the windows of my home. When I catch the chorus but not the bridge, that’s when I feel the day makes most sense. 


It’s this: the repeating words of evermore, sweaters, traitors. Brief allusions to therapy. Or, it’s the way I picture Olivia in ripped jeans, stained black with acid, singing about lovers she hasn’t yet met. They all let me flap in a circle, a witch’s haven, a sage smoked beacon. Here, I’m ankle socks that twist & shout. I’m breakup songs on repeat. I’m clout & movement & stemming to find my tulips on the counter, the ones that I will hold in my hands as sacrifice, the notes that dance around my head: unsoiled, billowing with hay, quarter rests, the epiphanies found in unplanned riffs.

Leslie Cairns holds an MA degree in English Rhetoric. She lives in Denver, Colorado. She loves her two dogs, especially the dramatics of her husky. She has upcoming flash, short stories, and poetry in various magazines (Cerasus Magazine, Final Girl Zine, Swim Press, Londemere Lit, Ilinix Magazine). Twitter: starbucksgirly

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