by Ryan Mattern

The women I have made cry will return in the discordant clanks of wind chimes. Conduct themselves with the bent antennae of lost cockroaches, find themselves drowned in the dewy brown eyes of coffee mugs. They are sparrows flapping against wind until they snap their necks in pockets of dead air and tumble across the highway as used paper napkins.

I see it happen: when I steal Tricia Long’s pen and tell her that glasses are for dumbbells; when I call Jennifer Edling a prude and leave her alone in a limousine on prom night; when I refuse to go to Rachel Peck’s father’s funeral. In these moments, wrought of red faces and raw noses, of quick gasps and baleful moans, the women I have made cry become the unsettled wisp of brick dust.

We are driving to your mother’s house. Neither one of us is wearing our wedding ring. You ask me if I am going to behave myself. I ask you when you’re going to fuck your boss again. It happens then: as you turn away and tuck yourself into the corner of the seat, that you cover your eyes and sob. I know it is only a matter of time before you are greyed-in, moving in still-frames across my mind like a strobe-lit phantom.

Ryan Mattern is an M.A. student in the Creative Writing Program at the University of California, Davis, where he also co-runs Fig & Axle, the graduate student reading series. He earned his B.A. in Creative Writing from California State University, San Bernardino, where he won the Felix Valdez Award for short fiction. His work has appeared in The Red Wheelbarrow, Superstition Review, Black Heart Magazine, and Poetry Quarterly, among others. He is a member of poetrIE, a reading series dedicated to showcasing the literary voices of California’s Inland Empire. He lives and writes in Northern California.