BY HELEN MCCLORY

Pleasure is a shade falling over your face barring the eyes, which glow with feelings that frighten and persuade. I have arranged my shoes in their boxes from the smallest size to the largest, around my body, which is only one size, the size it has been since I was thirteen. I am an adult now but a coiled one, waiting in this body yet to spring. And it is summer time, and the moss is hanging from the trees, and all your letters come floating down the stairs to make themselves creased in my hands.

I go hunting in the woods for a shade that looks like you, like a deer or bird of you, on slender legs like my own. I get the butt of the gun against my shoulder: I like the shock of muscle and bone as it throws back at triggering. I love the muted sounds nature puts on, but sounds made by me, the shock of me, the best. I am afraid of my fingers on the pulsing wound in the deer’s throat, on the bird’s hanging neck. I am made to think of prey by your voice in a letter. I watch you cross the schoolyard many years later many hours later the same day in silken and flat light, like my blouse, like one of my pleated skirts stuck to the thighs has inflected everything. I see a playpark with my name on it, my name in my fingers on the keys of the family piano, afraid at the sound of them, deep, as your fingers ride along towards mine, and the sound throws me back.

If I name you I name myself and you, or something with the shape of you, takes a name from out the bottomless satin hat and with a faint flourish says it’s all for me, this performance, this sleight of hand, this obfuscation of shadow and wild, wanting eyes that seem to hold all that I will one day know, and I recoil. A gun or a garrotte is not a high tree branch or a pair of heels or a walk at night with a beloved, but with me, with you, it is all those things.

Come with me, come with me, into the cellar where the lightbulb sputters, swings, knowing it merely repeats the old rhythms, knowing it will be outside of the house where I am cracked into another form like a baton against a magic hat and the dead rabbit becomes a live one, thumping. Come with me or don’t so the house sprites follow me out, like you did follow me, sit too close, at the keys, air too close, a hum of music, like myself alone without you, this pleasure, in the dark, to a liaison, to a treason to saying my name in your voice. I hold my throat and feel its pulse. I blink through visions of a cracked neck, dirt streaming over me and blood also. Viscous or cracked dry it washes away like nothing but the night remains behind and all we’ve done. Even saying this word blood is trespass. I am slight. I am obscene in a poet’s dress imagined by Hollywood. You’ve seen me now I am disappearing over the spattered fields, and through the music, let me be pleased, let my ways be snipped shut, for only I, above all, spattered too, pulse metronomic, can hear her changing now.

Helen McClory is a writer from Scotland. Her first flash fiction collection, On the Edges of Vision, won the Saltire First Book of the Year in 2015. Her debut novel, Flesh of the Peach was published in 2017. She can be found @HelenMcClory. There is a moor and a cold sea in her heart.

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