Gladys Knows the Girls Want to Take Her Place

“Sonder Seclusion” by Faizan Adil

She bids them go find strawberries. In the snow? they ask.
Get out she roars.

But she is kind to the boy. She plays a little on her guitar, the span
of her hand so strong & rough

that she thinks twice to touch him. The strings reach up to bite her.
She tamps them down. Hush birds. Hush judge.

What is the nature of love? he says. She has seen a moon that was not
in the sky. She has seen the belligerent fish fry themselves

for love or lack. This could be it, she says. We have two eyes
that blink alike. It is the third eye that is the trouble.

He listens so finely. Acute. The bend of his head, the loose
brown hair of his head. He listens so tunefully, so hued.

And never asks her to mute her voice as it rises, streaming
its gold & brass, extensive, alive. The girls come back.

They bring berries in a ribbed blue bowl. She doesn’t know
how they found them in the snow.

Get more, she scolds. Your father likes a thicker jam.
She takes the boy’s pretty hand. There isn’t much time for this.

There wasn’t much of a thought in this. Listen. The strings pop & shriek.
But it’s enough that the tune is unworldly, enough that it goes

out towards the stars, continues, it knows, until torn to shreds
by empty space, by nothingness. There is no road back now,

no road through the forest, icy and black. Later,
when they ask her, she doesn’t know. Where did the girls go?

Why did you let them? I knew nothing. They could not be held.
Outside, an owl sings, pitiful, haunting, clear as a bell.

By Hannah Craig