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Jacket 18 — August 2002   |   # 18  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |

nathalie stephens


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You say we are falling and of course I believe you.

The sky is a jagged tear away from earth, an elaborate disguise, a last-ditch attempt, or something less ambivalent, less strained.

You pull my hand from my arm and wave it about. This, you say, in a mad voice, and not any other.

What runs falls and your voice is slow mortar dripping. That thick. That implacable.

You are standing above me, with your red eyes flashing and that gash above your lip. Or maybe you are smiling.

What you say is indeterminate. What I hear is a far cry from anything knowable or known.

The door opens onto another door and that one onto another still. This isn’t the house of mirrors but it will do. You count to ten and chase after me, slamming one door and then another. I sit with my hands over my ears waiting for your footsteps. You run hard and heavy. You don’t fall.

I watch for the Mad Hatter but it is only you. The blood on the end of my arm has dried. Time coagulates, it does, it is a demonstrable thing. You are brandishing it for all to see, only there is no one left but me. I am on this side of the door, grabbing at myself with my one good hand.

You pull at my legs, they are longer than yours and you have further to run, or so you say. This won’t do and so I bite you, sink my teeth hard into your arm and even you cry out. Now you are bleeding too.

The sum total of you is a fraction of what I leave behind. I sit among bulrushes with my feet in the marsh, quacking like a duck. When you come for me, and you will, you will look up. You will not notice the hole at your feet, nor the speed at which you fall.

Photo of nathalie stephens
nathalie stephens writes in both French and English. She is the author of eight books including L’embrasure (TROIS, 2002), All Boy (housepress 2001), Somewhere Running (Arsenal Pulp 2000) and UNDERGROUND (TROIS, 1999) which was shortlisted for the Grand Prix du Salon du livre de Toronto. Her work appears in several anthologies as well, including Carnal Nation (Arsenal Pulp) and Written in the Skin (Insomniac).

Photo of nathalie stephens by m.j. archibald

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