MEMBRANE
by Alfred Fournier

Membrane

The cat had been missing for days.

Mom was home, behind French doors.
Her hospital absence stretched,     
a membrane under each precise day:
Teenaged sister who drove us to school
the chores we never failed to do
meals prepared by dad himself
on the table at five o’clock. 

The day I found the cat,
dad came home in from a 12-hour shift
stirred vodka and orange juice
whisked about the kitchen, humming.
Scent of pork chops and onions in the air.

I’d found her stretched
on the basement floor.
Numbly stroked her cold, dull fur.

At dinner, stared at my plate
in silence. I felt dad’s eyes on me.
What are you crying about?
I looked up. The cat died.                  

His steel eyes flashed.
I felt the slash of each word,
This       is not       about       the cat.
Your mother is dying.

My eyes came into focus.
Dad’s face, suddenly old, melted
into a frown.
Sisters wide-eyed,
stopped in mid-breath.

I felt it snap—
The thin layer that had held each day in place.
Illusion of a world where I was safe.
A world dead on the basement floor.
A woman dying behind French doors.

Monologue

My father was a coal miner.
My mother was a waste.
My family was a group of humans
Crowding empty space,
Vying for a place beside
The noble king, the Christ.
But I was not inclined to beg
And much too small to fight.
I hid beneath the table,
Since we didn’t have dog.
I gnawed on wood, sweet maple,       
And discarded scraps of light            
That streamed through cracks in curtains
Drawn mercilessly tight.

Little sister scattered
Circus feathers with her smile.
We shared a child’s wilderness
Of helpless, hungry guile.
Adored me out of solitude
With green-flecked jewel-thief eyes,
Past quick-hushed talk of chemo
To join her childhood crimes.
In Chinese acrobatic play,
Suspended her in air
And held her high, where none could die,
But couldn’t keep her there.

My brother was a gypsy king.           
Kept a hundred lovers.
We shared a room in silence
In the absence of our mother.
Could rub no words between us
In our place beside the pyre.
I watched him flipping matches,
Twisting ashes from his brow,
Stepping into night
As if he owned its airy depths,
Discarding broken rules,
While taking tender hearts to bed.

My high school sister wedged herself
‘tween death and status quo.
Her smile was a shadowbox
Of childhood afterglow.
She shouldered every family need
With tick-tock angel’s grace,
But carried folded pocket dreams
Of any other place.
Her mournful front-pew wail rang out
As mother’s casket closed
And climbed cathedral walls
Before it settled in my bones.

Never spoke a word of silence,
Stepping softly in my grief.
Listened long to Sunday sermons
But never could believe.
I filled my chest with lightning
During every summer storm.
Let it leak beneath the covers,
Reading books to keep me warm.
My mind became a dialogue,
So I was not alone.
My life became a monologue
Shaped like my mother’s bones.

Love Story

Father’s penis
long and low
knew just what to do

when lightning struck
my mother’s eyes
and turned her ashes blue

He never wavered
in his charge
grinding through the slog

but spared a laugh
like tinkling glass
for fragile sparrow’s song

He raised a troop
on barren soil
fledged us one by one

then shoved us off
into a war
his penis had begun

And no one knew
among our ranks
what joys we could enlist

We flew from childhood
armed and dead and longing
to be kissed

Mother’s trembling
feather love
fleeting
blue and blurred

Father’s penis looks at her
She moves just like a bird

Moonchild

Alone, a silent moonchild stepped 
On darkened paths through wooded fog,
Away from kin at fire’s breast, 

Neither imprinted nor impressed.
Away, to where the night is long,
Alone, a silent moonchild stepped. 

Bathed in silvery light he slept,
Beyond familial dialogue.
Away from kin at fire’s breast,

Beneath a nourishing moon, he rests
In fertile dreams, where soul grows strong.
Alone, a silent moonchild stepped   

through inner worlds, framed by death,
Where love becomes a monologue.
Away from kin at fire’s breast,

a child’s choices manifest,
a man discerns right from wrong.
Alone, a silent moonchild stepped   
Away from kin at fire’s breast.

About the Author:

Alfred Fournier is an entomologist in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a graduate of Purdue and George Washington Universities. His work has appeared in The New Verse News, Cathexis Northwest Press and DeLuge, and is forthcoming in Plainsongs, The Main Street Rag and elsewhere.

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