She looked him in the eyes

As he rolled his tongue around

With words

And words

While he

Never said one word of it—

It was all she knew

He was not saying

And all he thought

She would not

Or could not



An open mouth

Dripping down—

His lips like wax

Melting at the sound

Of his own soul’s

Around and around

Like Flint Stones

Hard and cold

And beating together

To set fire to

The campground.


She stared at his mouth

To see if she could spot the


Drawn from the edges

And around—

A marionette

To all he assumed

She wanted to hear

Right above his beard

Was the flapping,

The slapping

Together of the script.


She had this feeling he imagined

The same

The hand up her back

Becoming what he



And it furrowed her brow


The reflection of himself

Sat on the shelf

Where he also kept his heart

And his mind


For a cluttered time.


“Stop,” she said

A bead of sweat

Holding to the edge of

Her hair

Like a skydiver

Regretting the dare.

Then he asked,



She drew a picture

Of the why

On the wall of her brain

Then softened the edges

To make the image

More tame—

But just before she added

The frame—

She saw in the corner

An artist called Shame

Who laughed in delight

As she edited the truth

Like she was playing

A Parlor game.




She opened her mouth

And fire came out—

Like a dragon

Dragging the fuel

From the center of her and

Into a pool

Of lava burning

The kindling

Of paper drawings

Torn from the sides

Of her brain

Violent like

A war game

And strong with veracity

In the flames.


He stepped back

And then fell

Into confusion

As in a spell and

Lowered his head

Just a bit,

“But I thought

You were fooled,

I assumed you

Needed this school,

In fact, I was sure of it.”


She looked him in the eyes

As his tongue fell and

Hung off to the side—

Like a dog

Running a race

No longer keeping

The pace.

She whispered,

“I knew all along

That It

Was stuck behind your teeth

But I had to wait

For your truth to

Clash with my courage

And now my courage

Is falling into

My feet.”


And then she walked away.



copyright Jill Szoo Wilson


Photo credit: Gregory Crewdson