by Leah Mueller
Evening ceremony, pebble sand inauspiciously littered with the bodies of dead seagulls. You in billowing shirt and black pants: me in pink lace dress, both velvet. In the distance kids play in the sand with long sticks. You are not their father, any more than I had one. Husband you understand, not boundary-setting: my children have long since learned to comprehend the reality of tiny spaces. They draw circles around their bodies, breathe with the required amount of oxygen. Your sister's friend arrives, red-faced and drunk. She gives us an ocean photo framed upside down, and I pack it dutifully, every time we move to a new home. The woman dies of alcoholism a few years later, but you and I remain stubbornly alive, married. Despite intention, we won't last long, either. My wedding ring falls into the sand, but the minister finds it, seconds before it disappears from sight. I lose the ring again in Chicago after loving somebody else, but we retrace our footsteps, and find it underneath a bar stool. Now, the golden circle rests placidly on my finger. ' My son announces plans for his own, elaborate wedding. My daughter remains alone, fierce and tiny in her basement apartment. You take red pills for your blood pressure. School friends are worse, dying in their mid-fifties, bellies hanging in defeat, like useless wings. Your fire is visible to everyone except you. I see it when you forget to be careful. I want to remind you that caution never amounted to much. Those fallen seagulls followed set flight patterns until their wings failed them at last. Again, in December, I set out for the outcropping, try to walk the entire distance alone, but the bitter gusts turn me around. The rocks stare through my windshield with their frozen eyes. I recall how young you still were in those velvet wedding pants as I pack them into yet another cardboard box, and wonder if our constant movement will ever be enough to keep us alive.
Leah Mueller is an independent writer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of one chapbook, “Queen of Dorksville” (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2012), and two full-length books, “Allergic to Everything” (Writing Knights Press, 2015) and “The Underside of the Snake” (Red Ferret Press, 2015). Her work has been published in Blunderbuss, Sadie Girl Press, Origins Journal, Talking Soup, Silver Birch Press, Cultured Vultures, and many other publications. She is a regular contributor to Quail Bell magazine, and was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival. Leah was also a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest.