Robin Gow is the author of the chapbook HONEYSUCKLE by Finishing Line Press. Their poetry has recently been published in POETRY, New Delta Review, and Roanoke Review. They are a graduate student and professor at Adelphi University pursing an MFA in Creative Writing. They are also the Editor at Large for Village of Crickets and Social Media Coordinator for Oyster River Pages. Their first full-length poetry collection is forthcoming with Tolsun Books.
We Talked in Scrabble Letters
Pouring the wooden blocks into our mouths—
pieces clunking against each other between teeth.
How many vowels make a name? Do you know
a word for love that starts with ‘z’?
Zap comes out of my mouth and onto
the kitchen table as lighting cracks outside.
We’re having a dinner of words—of maybe
maybe maybe tomorrow when wood has had
time to collect itself. A word growing fingers
and toes inside my chest. Another word
in between his teeth and he culls the game
for the right letters to say I love you
but he can’t find a ‘v’ so he says I loathe you.
And I’m looking for the letters to apologize
but I already used to ‘z’ and of have no ‘s’
so, I say forgive me. The first course is only
‘a’s: apple and anise and artichoke and almonds
and anchovy and alfredo. Wooden food
talking to us. Our night alone in his parent’s house
where the sliding glass door opens and closes
and opens and closes. A dog barks not with noise
but with the word spelling over and over—
letters falling into the room. And we’re eating
words and I gather enough letters to feed him
a story—I say We are going to grow old together.
And he says only yes yes yes. How you
deploy the ‘x’ is a matter of survival.
I want to speak only with ‘x’s but my body tells me
that sometimes love moves from the body
and into words—that sometimes the words
mean less than skin. Are you word or skin?
There are no real words that start with ‘x’
other then xylophone and x-ray. I say
x-ray x-ray x-ray and we look at each other’s bones
which are always simpler than you would think.
He has a jaw and shoulders and clavicle
and pelvis shaped like the head of animal.
Then the skin is back and I only have
a ‘q’ and an ‘e’ left and everyone knows
that the ‘q’ can’t live without the ‘u’.
He uses a fork to skewer the letters.
A bird spells SONG SONG SONG
in the window. We live far away from bodies.
The last useless letters. He suggests we work
together. He reveals his ‘u’ and begs me
to put it in my ‘q’
but I eat the ‘q’ before he can weld us together like that.
I loathe you I loathe you he has to say.
And I’m out of all me letters so I open my mouth
with just the sound of a long and haunting eee.
Mr. Body Mr. Body
Mr. Plum in the basement with
the dagger. He stands in the corner without
you knowing. I call you Mr. Body and you call me Mr. Body
and you pretend you don’t see the shape of
a man in me—lurking in my bones like the sound
of dice rolling on card board.
All men aren’t monsters but all men want
to discover the weapon. Mrs. Peacock wields
the wrench and smacks me on the head
while you’re not looking and I say
I’m fine and that we need to keep going
that I want to feel your skin near my skin
because I’m the one who turned off
the lights. We’re playing Clue in the blue dim
of evening when the sun hides its rope
and Mrs. Scarlet offers to teach you how to
unfurl pleasure from a candle stick.
Hot wax down my back. Mr. Body Mr. Body whose
name suggests weight. Our name suggests predetermination.
I will kill you then maybe. Mr. Body with
the revolver in the basement in the basement.
There is a kitchen somewhere if we could
just unlock it. Someday I will remember you Mr. Body
and I will say we deserved it. You skin turning
into evidence. My skin becoming a
clue. Mr. Plum with his purple bruised skin
laughing. There’s a reason why you love Mr. Green.
There’s a reason why the maid is polishing
the tiny basement window so the light
can do what it must. Mr. Body with his fingers and toes
between us. I’m asking you what it feels like
to die this way—knowing all along
that body was a color. I outline us in chalk. I take
the dagger and draw it across your chest
and you like it—you like it so much.
I ask you to let me draw blood and you agree
and the colonel in his uniform will stand to decide
whether or not this is a crime. You say yes yes yes
make a body of me and I do.
Board Game Home
I rolled blank dice down the long hallway getting longer.
A number is best applied to how many steps a piece contains.
Waking up in the night I would make a board game
of the house so as to make it less frightening.
A tall shadow figure would emerge from the end of the hall
to play. I searched for his face—touching his skin
the texture of felt. He brought me these blank dice.
One black and one white. Only he could read them
so, a I’d roll he’d tell me the numbers. One, five six
three. His favorite number was three. He liked
to watch me plant my feet. He liked when I couldn’t walk anywhere.
The number were real though. If I tried to move
more steps than I rolled I would stand there still.
Sometimes I wonder if the shadow was my father
or at least a part of him. Maybe my grandfather’s ghost
returned to play. I never minded the fear because
it kept me feeling alive. A game is a game is a game is
just a game. When I won I got to wake up.
The blank dice turning into mice at the end of the hall
near the voice. Are you haunted by your own luck?
I am. I carry dice in case I need to roll my paces.
The shadow only played with me and never my brothers.
The house was empty. Each room. Where did their bodies go?
How many steps do I have in my bones?
In my muscle? I am here scraping the dots
off all my dice and asking the creature to return.
I invite evil because I crave its guidance.
I have no answers about why the floor is tilting
and why the walls have cracks and why each year I get older
and play less games and more games and there’s
a flock of birds made of dice in the tree outside. They’re rolling
rolling rolling. Give me another number. Something
to work with.
We push all the junk mail off the kitchen table
for one of us to lay down. We want to play Operation
but we crave authenticity. The body
as a board game. We dig in the medicine cabinet
for tweezers and I wonder if me hands are
steady enough. Paint his nose red.
He takes off all his clothes and we stare
at him before we get to work. Before we play.
He is a human body with limbs. He is something
to be observed or painted. What kind of
animals are bodies? Flesh and fingers.
One of us removes his Adams Apple, carefully
lifting the idea from his throat. The apple
full of worms and throbbing. The apple
tempting us to open our own skin. Everyone wants
a turn. I want them to pluck out each Spare Rib.
I want them to coax the Butterflies from my stomach—
or were those moths? It’s my turn and I hold
the tweezers out. It’s my turn and there’s so many
places to enter. It’s my turn and I want to be naked too.
I reach for the Broken Heart not because I want
to relieve him but because I want two—
one to keep under my tongue. Steady steady.
Above his skin. I hover helicoptic. How has anyone
ever learned how to use their hands?
Clumsy devices. I want to reach in—graze the edges.
I want to make a larger opening.
There is nothing satisfying about tweezers.
I am an impatient body. I want gore and
rupture. I touch the edge and the sirens
rain all around us. Red angry sirens.
I curse my body for its trembling. I want to
give in to unsteadiness. Thank God for my
wrists and my elbows. The heart turns into
a siren and casts the room in red. How dare
you play a game. How dare you
trust your body to do what you instruct.
The body on the table turning cardboard
and us trying to wake him up but he
is a landscape now. All the junk mail turns
into moths and cloud the overhead light.
I tell the others that we need to put the pieces back
and put the game away. We cry. We can’t
remember his name. I catch his angry plastic heart
By In Parentheses in IP Volume 5
64 pages, published 1/15/2020
From the Editor:
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By In Parentheses in IP Volume 7
32 pages, published 1/15/2022
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