by Dave Duggins


Start the tape.


and Richard says:  Okay,

            dena.  Are you ready to talk?  Do you want to

answer some questions?


dena says:  Umm.

Stares at the ceiling and:  Umm.


Richard:  Are you ready to --


dena:  Sure.  I'll

            talk to you.  You

and only you.



And you'll remember

your promise?


dust-wind autumn day

we came here together,

dry leaves --


Richard:  I remember.


            with a small 'd'.


dena:  Yes.

            She laughs.

Yes:  with a

            small 'd'.

I want to see it printed that way

            in the transcriptions.


Richard: If I promise, will you tell me everything?


dena:  Yes.


Richard:  Will you tell me the truth?


dena:  Oh yes.

            She looks at Richard, her smile cracked glass, a peek into deep-fathom space where cold, oiled machines hum.


            I will tell you the truth.  And you will not scream.  You will not run.

Only because you are Richard.


Richard:  Because I

            understand you.


dena laughs, the scratch of a stylus

            across the grooves of an old

vinyl record.


she says:  I will watch

                        your eyes

while we talk ...


No one can ever get dena to talk.  Except Richard.



            tell me about

the first night.

Tell me

            about the rose.


dena:  why start there?

  Why not

last week

            the week before

the season before?

The ancient seasons?


Richard:  I want to  know

why you chose him.


dena:  It was just

                        the shine

young shine coming out

            of his skin --


Richard:  Tell.


dena:  I

didn't know him,


I'd never see him again

            his boyfriend waiting in the car

outside the flower shop, old Nashville Road

bluemetal Volvo, peeling flakes, bright orange primer

vanity license plate:  GUNS-R-US

the boyfriend yelling at him and he

talking, crying

eyes red and wet face pale

red                  wet

but not so pale

as later ...


Richard:  And the rose?


dena:  Bought it inside

and gave it to him --


Richard:  Why?


dena:  The depth

            there, in his sadness.

Didn't know he shined, but



            why he cried.

Most of them cry

in confusion,

but he --


dena pauses, sips water.  Richard waits.


then:  I said

            'you are

someone who needs'

he smiled through silent tears and I made sure


Richard:  You made sure


dena:  Yes

            my blood

            was on

the briar

                        to mark him

            for later.

His eyes

            so sweet --


Richard:  You said you would tell me

all of it.  You


            you would tell me the truth.


dena:  and the truth is that his eyes were sweet and

            his tongue

bitter, and

            I drank a cup of ice water



dena smiles.  Depths slide through the smile, depths that are always

            trying to move out

beyond the edge of the world.

            The black smile wants to live

in the bright sunlight world

            of happy things.


The tape is rolling.



dena:  How much

do you want to know?

            Would you like to know

why the sun sings?

Would you like to know what crickets dream?


Richard:  The truth.  Only the truth.

                        He looks at his watch.  He's late.  Half hour.


dena:  Truth.


Richard:  Without poetry.


dena giggles:

            There is no truth

without poetry.


She laughs, breathing frost, shifts in her chair.  The room is cold growing




            colder ...


Richard:  Who was next?


dena:  That night, or



Richard:  That night.


dena:  That night

            I heard the moon scream

and I flew with owls across a stained sky

and when I looked, I saw


I saw the fever at the edge of the world

all of the big world

            and two boys, running

like kites with cut strings

Pinocchio-boys paroled from sleep

            singing and kicking leaves and howling

out too late on a school night

            pillow-ghosts propped up

scarecrows of bedclothes in empty beds

            to fool foolish parents.


Richard, smiling:  I remember doing that.


dena:  Yes.  The magic.

            The boy magic:

I took them


pushed darkness into their veins and when I stopped

            they weren't little boys anymore.

When I stopped

They weren't



She grins.  Her teeth are jagged slates, eyes crystal pomegranates.  If she wants, she can be beautiful.  She has that choice

            though Kafka

called her Gregor Samsa ...


Richard:  Is there anything left?


dena:  Sometimes.  Of little boys, no.  Little boys

            have soft bones

                        with warm, sweet, taffy centers --


Richard:  I will never see this.


dena: You asked me.


Richard:  Only the truth.


dena:  Don't you believe?


She smiles again, the smile of living things, fluid crescent against the alien darkness of her rippling face.


Now she is beautiful again, moonlight on flawless white skin.


dena:  Driving here, through

            sweet scents of jasmine and potpourri

pine and country homes, dirt roads, I saw her

            drugged and beautiful, thumb cocked

                        dripping deliciously from light yellow summer clothes

I took her to that winter farm

            where you used to rehearse the band, remember?

There in soft straw and gauze of cobweb

she kissed me

thought to shock me

            when I took her into my arms she cried out; and

            no one heard but spiders ...

Her mind filled with sketchbook fantasies, never realized

I read her hunger

            as I read her mind

and made sure

            she came

before she died.


Richard:  How many?  How many years?


dena:  You want centuries.


Richard:  The truth.  I want the truth.  How many?


dena:  Lost count long before

volcanoes cooled;

            great beasts roamed the earth and I;

in another shape.

I'm older than stars, didn't I

            tell you?

Older than light.


Richard:  No.  You never told me

when you were born.


dena:  Before God.


            Light bends around me, when I feed



dreambubble, silent

and beautiful, I think.


Richard:  I will never see this.  I will



dena:  You

exist in second's space,

            casual eyeblink --

see time from my side

            and your mind slides



            are privileged to know;

only because you know me.  You hear

                        me.  You

            are tranced by Mayhem.

You hear the song.

You are kin.





            All God's children

are red dreams of violence;

God's children hear voices

            singing of meat.  Second's space

lures them

            away; parents

            teach them away from it, the true nature.

                        We are Hunters





before seasons of bright time took you over

painted you pastel colors


were red, too.




dena:  Say something.


Richard:  Teach me.






Look -- your hands

stretch skin

            into blood shape



hymns to tearing flesh.


                                    She smiles.  Moves to him.  Kisses




            unlocks him.




            with me.


Richard:  Um.






The moon is waning silver

            the moon

doesn't matter.


Beasts drink water

Beasts cross the river

Singing of murder.






The tape is rolling --


The tape

                                    is rolling.



About the Author:

Dave Duggins has published short fiction in the small and professional presses for almost twenty years, with stories appearing in FEAR and Cemetery Dance.  His stories "Seesaw" and "Depth of Reflection" were featured in The Best of Cemetery Dance anthology, recently published by Roc in trade paperback. 


Poem 2005-06 Dave Duggins. First published in Descending Darkness, November 2005.