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Sept 14, 2022

Between the ghost of Jean Paul Sartre

Bella Rotker

After Xime Silva & Emily Pittinos

    With a line from A Cloud of Drench Bearing Down


My neck wrapped up           in tattered 

          yellow tape at the scene, it doesn’t 

                    matter how I got here. This is how 


it happens. The wantless 

          follow you in the park 

                    at dusk. Bushes are a crumbling 


type           of beige, sunflowers still

          barely hanging on. Zoom in here: 

                    there’s a tree that grows in south 


central Florida in saltwater that sucks

          all the salt into one leaf at a time. 

                    Watch it turn yellow then beige and break 


off. It picks a new leaf 

          and moves on. To kill           small 

                    parts of you so the rest keeps 


living. To wither. To rot. 

          I’m picking and falling 

                    and dying and picking again, 


perpetual motion     machine like, beverly 

          clock like, float     belt like. I am drowning 

                    the shadows. The elms take 


and take and take, whatever 

          daylight is left is always 

                    theirs. I wish I could be greedy. 


The scent of grass           between lips 

          and teeth. Tongue and throat 

                    yellow in time. Sometimes 


I wonder if I was meant to be a leaf 

          or a lilypad and someone     out there 

                    fucked up the making of me. 


The shrieking, piercing having 

          of it, halving         of it, the bloodhound 

                    with my human bone I passed in the park 


that night. The empty         stomach, 

          the starving and drying. The yellowing 

                    welcome center. The moon          climbing 


its clouds. Of course           I was lying. 

          We all were, and maybe     that makes us 

                    bad people, but isn’t man evil 


and I was supposed to be a leaf 

          anyway. How do you define           what makes

                    a dead thing           dead. The faded yellow  


          flyer          floating past me        on the pavement. 

                    I’m keeping the memory     at arms 

                              distance, dull fire     just far enough. Burn 


                    those memories. Burn     the footage. They 

                              don’t          need to know. Fuck     and bleed 

                                        until dry. Towel off        and hide. Straw hat. 


                              Chicken     wire. Distant sirens. Find me 

                                        chasing bees         somewhere     north. Find 

                                                  me finally         learning     to sail. To escape, 


                                        to twist,         to unfurl. To run,         to hide, 

                                                  to hibernate. Find        a cave     in the woods, 

                                                            keep me away         from the salt, 


                                                  from the slicing. Find         me painted 

                                                            down          the pavement, and dye         my blood 

                                                                      yellow so the birds       come and play.

Bella Rotker (they/she) is a sophomore at the Interlochen Arts Academy where they major in creative writing. She was born in Venezuela and grew up in Miami. They have received recognition from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and was a finalist in the Charles Crupi Memorial Poetry Contest. She won the Haley Naughton Memorial Scholarship to Iowa Young Writers Studio. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Red Wheelbarrow, Crashtest, The Hyacinth Review, and The Lumiere Review. Bella can usually be found trying (and failing) to pet bunnies, pressing flowers, or staring wistfully at bodies of water.

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