Moon Time: Prior Fields

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Prior Fields: eighteen miles north of Hamady

 Deleterious Estates

 A Change Is Gonna Come quivered under the needle of her dead dad’s timeworn record player. She ignored the annoyance and applied pink tinted gloss to her pouted lips. The trailer park boys all thought she was pretty, Royce with the rose gold hair, even though she barely filled her B cup brassier, and possessed the curves of a gardener’s beanpole.

“Sure,” the popular boys had often said, “you ain’t got much of a body, but your face is fuckin’ gorgeous.”

At the age of fourteen and seven months, she had finally matured, and the debased boys of Deleterious Estates could all kiss off. She checked her womanly look, and smiled.

Suck my cock, mouthed her reflection. Royce was feeling mighty proud of herself as she stood before the full length mirror and bled.

The record finally skipped hard enough to grab her full attention; she stepped away from her image in a huff, and replaced Sam Cooke with The Mamas and the Papas. No Salt on Her Tail wailed over the speakers, and she danced about, allowing the lyrics to seep into her bone marrow.

“I’m a woman now, motherfuckers,” Royce said aloud as she spritzed her wrists with eau de cheapo. She’d always admired the types of girls Garrett ran around with—they all smelled like menstruation, Rave hair spray, and drugstore parfum.

Garrett was a good big brother, violently protective of Royce’s virtue. He was also a hypocrite. Garrett had once been notorious for making it with most of the girls in the trailer park—girls with equally defensive brothers. Sometimes Royce felt sorry for him, missing out on dates with Melissa while he drove a HEMTT wrecker through Iraq; but mostly, she just worried about him being trapped by sand and sun and bullets and bombs.


He’d affixed a lock to the bedroom door the day he left. The Ricker had never touched his sister, true; but Garrett had frequently caught the boozer looking in on her with wild eyes while she pored over homework or danced to oldie records. Because she was pretty, Royce with the rose gold hair, and Rick was growing tired of his old lady.

“Promise to keep this door locked, always,” he’d told her. “Especially when you go to bed. And don’t leave this room at night unless the fuckin’ trailer catches on fire. Ya hear me?”

“I promise. Thank you, Garrett.”

“Don’t look at me like that, kid. I’ll be back before ya have the chance to miss me.”

Royce bit her bottom lip, and admitted, “But I miss you already.”

“Shut up, will ya? When I get home, I’m getting my own place. And you’re gonna come live with me.”

“What will Mom say?” Royce really didn’t give a good goddamn.

Neither did Garrett. “Who fuckin cares? I’m tired of sharing a room with my little sister, and I sure as hell ain’t leaving ya here!” His dark irises appeared to shudder, and he hissed, “Let Mom and the Ricker rot alone in this joint. Screw ‘em, ya know? Maybe we’ll just pack up and move back to Michigan.”

“Right on.” She wrapped her vine-like arms around Garrett’s neck, ignoring the car horn that hailed him.

“Gotta go, kid. I’ll write ya when I can.” He picked up his duffel bag and slung it over a sturdy shoulder. “Don’t take no shit.”


Royce lay down on her bed, and for a moment imagined she was living in a reeking barracks someplace hotter than a tin box in Texas.

She repositioned her lanky body so that she could press her bare feet against the window screen. Orange-pink light unfurled from the horizon and traveled through the window to kiss her freckled face. The August sun was setting, and Royce wished a childish wish for a cool night.

The sky opened its humid maw in reply, and exhaled a gust of spiteful laughter.

Goddamn Texas.


 

Royce with the Rose Gold Hair © 2019 Kindra M. Austin/All Rights Reserved.

Royce with the Rose Gold Hair (excerpt)

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Nighttime for Hamady

Hamady: Red Oak County Seat

Hill Gates

 

There’s something discomforting about a steady creaking of taut rope rubbing against the bark of a sturdy tree branch—say the rope of a tire swing in use. When the ceaseless sound springs through nighttime breezes at twelve in the morning, it’s downright unnerving.

It’s only Jess, snuck out again to meet her boyfriend.

Millie was quite fond of her young neighbor, Jessica May Simon; she’d often caught the girl with Kyle Lubbock under the big oak in the center of the grove. Jess’s father was awful mean, and Millie was a nosy-body who did whatever she could to keep Mr. Simon’s belt far away from his only daughter’s backside.

Such a stupid girl. Stupid in love, I guess.

Millie abandoned the bed she shared with her husband, and slipped her feet into a pair of moccasins.

Robert rolled over, and yawned. “Really, sweetheart, maybe that girl deserves for her daddy to find out. Just sayin!”

“Please, Robby. You know what would happen to Jess.”

Awww, hell, Mills.” He flung off the bed covers. “Want me to go with you?”

“You go on to sleep, Love. I’ll take Shamrock. She likes the late night air, I think.” Then she let out a whistle. “C’mon, old girl. We’re going for a walk.”

Millie Hamady-Williams and the Doberman-Shepherd marched out onto the lamp-lit street; they crossed the cul-de-sac, and then quick-stepped through Hill Grove, guided by a pocket-sized flashlight. The creaking grew louder and sharper as they neared the center, but Shamrock wasn’t bothered by the sound; she remained focused on the voices that escaped Millie’s ears. Poor Millie—she was slipping.

“I knew it, Shammy,” Millie breathed, relieved. “Wait.” She stopped a moment and watched Jessica Simon swing on the tire, alone. “She’s crying. Something’s happened.”

Shamrock spoke low, but Millie didn’t understand.

“C’mon, Shammy.” She took one step forward, but the dog wouldn’t obey. “Do I need to start leashing you? Come.”

Shamrock stood her ground, and peeled back her lips. She’d not once shown aggressive teeth to Millie in all the years they’d shared. Millie misinterpreted the warning, and as she opened her scolding mouth wider, something blunt landed hard upon her head. The last voice she heard before entering blackness, was a wrathful howl.


Millie could feel the layers of tape wrapped around the base of her neck and covering her mouth, as well as the zip-ties fastened around her wrists and ankles, all before she’d even opened her eyes. Her head lay heavy in Jessica’s lap.

Where’s Shammy? Maybe she’s gone for Robby!

“I’m sorry, Millie,” Jessica wept. “My daddy made me do it. He made me get you to come out here.”

Millie heaved, and rolled herself free from the quaking lap. She kept on rolling as the sweet girl pleaded.

“Please forgive me. Please, Millie.” Yes, Jessica kept on begging as her awful mean daddy stalked her friend, chiding, with a ready pillowcase.

“No law greater than the Lord’s. I’m only tryin to uphold that law, Millie Hamady. Never mind that I’m an earth-bound lawman, this is my duty as a God fearing man. We’ve been tryin and tryin to get rid of your lot, and by God, we will.”


There’s something sinister about the sound of taut rope rubbing against the bark of a sturdy tree branch—say the rope of a hangman. When the ceaseless sound springs through nighttime breezes at twelve-something in the morning, it’s a threat of things to come.

© 2019 Kindra M. Austin

TWELVE: Review by Candice Louisa Daquin

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Cover Design by Allane Sinclair

TWELVE will be released December 10, 2018

From a young age I recognized something irreplaceable about the kind of writing  that wasn’t neatly packaged into a ‘eat me now’ bite. Twelve isn’t a genre, it’s a diary that has come alive. I feel as if I shouldn’t be reading it because it’s like standing in a bathroom with someone throwing up, it’s feels wrong and addictive and horrifying and devastating and all the images Austin conveys burn into my retina and remain there, shocking, uncompromising and vivid. But Austin couldn’t ever look away, so neither can we. Austin can’t wake up tomorrow and call her mom, neither should we deny the hideous simplicity and infinite complexity of finding out the woman who gave you life no longer exists.

If I didn’t know Kindra Austin, I’d want to know her, it’s that simple. Her truth, the unashamed bright well written light on her pain, it makes you want to get to know her, because she’s an articulate, fierce real being and most things are not and she knows it; “our lives a fucking flip-book filled with phony animation, as / though we’ve never been anything more than a / pair of paper dolls pretending to breathe.” (Meditation). Austin isn’t going to play the game, she can’t be anything but herself, take it or leave it. I suspect most people would want a lot more not less; “I’m sorry I think / when I drink / too much.” (Sorry I’m A Bitch)

At the same time, society is afraid to ‘go there’ when it comes to exhibiting sadness and admitting how you really feel rather than the social media version. A very cruel person may say, those who are depressed are going to be attracted to sad works because it validates their feelings and they’re not as alone. There is truth to that, but it’s discounting the value of sadness as a provoker of art forms. ““I love you. I miss you so much, Mom.” I knew it was you. And I knew you were dead. / I know you are dead.  / There was a long, crackling silence that made my brain itch. / Then you said, “I think of you all the time.” (A Peculiar Dream I Had). I didn’t even know I was crying reading Twelve until the wetness of my tears began to soak through my clothes.

By artform, I refer to the oft painful pleasure the reader gets in reading something poignant and real, rather than manufactured and glossy. Perhaps it’s the difference between those who revere artificiality and pretention and those who fall in love with someone whose eyes are burning as they stand in front of you showing you the guts that enable them able to go on, even as you can’t imagine how they can.  “Mother, what am I supposed to do? I’m so fucking tired of writing about you. / But who am I, if not a writer?” (Your Absence Is a Burglar). This poem alone should win poetry awards, not only for the title, which says everything, but the renting devastation of its truths. Throughout, you get the sense you are witnessing something as evocative and brutal as Joan Didion’s classic; The Year of Magical Thinking.

Nothing I write will really do justice to this collection because it’s not about doing justice, it’s about witnessing the grief and survival and healing of a woman who is stronger than she’d even realized she was, and at the same time, a person who isn’t afraid to be weak or expose the fuck-you’s and holes in her soul. “We had you pushed into the furnace;/ spoiling organs and / leaking skin were / burned away. / Your pulverized bones / resemble beach sand in / Tawas, / fittingly.”  (The Color of Beach Sand)

My favorite novels tend to be those with a good deal of tragedy, there is something life affirming in getting to know characters who struggle and don’t have it easy. As a writer, Austin has had her fair share of intense darkness and instead of obscuring her voice it’s just added to it. “I’ve decided that / forgiving trespasses does not heal me.  / Leave the forgiving to God.  / Some things are simply / unforgivable.” (Last Judgement). How can I as a reviewer really ‘review’ Austin’s experience of losing her mother and all the horror that goes with that? It seems insulting to even review this book for that reason. But because it is so important to read, I must find a way to convey why most people should read it.

That is the gift of someone meant to write rather than someone who simply writes for therapy or catharsis. “Mother’s a full-time drunk, and you / only got a part-time daddy.  / Good luck, baby;” (Viscera in Danger (revamp). This isn’t a grown child crying over alcoholic parent, losing a mother, bringing up a sister, reconciling her own family, this is a life reaching for love despite having been hurt so badly it feels impossible to want anything. Austin is above all else, a natural writer, someone who probably came out of the womb with ideas for a book. Her infectious energy is unabated by the grief of losing her mother, because she is able to voice those experiences and write them out, rather than letting them destroy her and they are both humorous, hideous and a reality we rarely permit others to view; “mourning after reflection—in the fingerprinted glass. / My cheeks are hollow / but my gut is bloated / from too much diet soda (I’m watching my figure) and vodka.” (At the Diary Case)

If you think this is no great thing, I can attest that it is. Usually grief leaves you wordless, numb, unable to pick up where you left off. To be able to turn grief into art, that’s the sweet spot that few artists ever attain. It separates the wheat from the chaff and in this case, produces unforgettable, rich and crushingly painful poems and prose, both haunting and beautiful in their agonies. “I see your name card. Your plate has been placed upside down, and your napkin, folded, at the left. There are no utensils, or a chalice set for you.” (Dead Mothers Don’t Dine)

Personally, I want what I read to haunt me, to stay with me, to alter me. I want the author to have the guts to climb out of their anonymity and offer themselves to the reader. Too often these days we read safe, careful, highly edited prosaic poetry and prose that has been sanitized by MFA programs and has completely lost the original thunder of its origins.  If you read a poem by Austin you know it’s by her. In a world deluged by would-be writers and frantic Instagram poets, it’s easy to get really tired of reading others feelings and they all merge together. To pick someone out of the crowd just by the timber, intelligence and reflection of their voice, that means they are crafting words into roads and pushing us down them.

Some happiness addicts may not appreciate this book because I guarantee there will be times you will be grieving right alongside Austin. I say to this, we should not look away, we should own the reality of grief and see within it, the truth and experience of its piece of us. Austin isn’t a depressing writer, she’s a truth teller and as such, she sits among the greats who also wrote their truths unapologetically.

It should be mentioned Austin is also wicked clever and at times you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I particularly related to An Emotionless Affair because it’s damn smart, rude and absolutely accurate. For anyone who has gone through the psych-route or been a therapist, you can hear those truisms screaming; “It’s an emotionless affair, the goings-on between patient and psychiatrist.” Austin cuts to the center of truth like a bad-mouthed surgeon who reads 17th century gothic classics on weekends.

Whether you have lost a loved one, been abandoned by your mother, had an alcoholic in the family or not, you cannot be senseless to the yearning humanity of these poems; “I’ll fall asleep tonight by the light of the lava lamp / you gave me last year. / When I was thirty-eight, and/ you were alive.” (Thirty-Nine) and if you do, well then, your diagnosis as sociopath is confirmed, for there is everything we are in these words and it’s impossible to be unchanged witnessing these 12 months; “Old age is a fable; / I was forced to stop counting at 58. / Today, you’re supposed to be 59, / but instead you’re fucking zero.” (Zero).

How do we find something different within poetry today that isn’t affected and trite? People are becoming more pretentious whilst proclaiming greater honesty, the more we share the less we are ourselves. Austin has her finger on the trigger when it comes to shaving the irrelevant and getting to the point. “You know  what I think? I think forgiveness is infinitely intermittent, and real acceptance is bullshit.” (Intermittent Bullshit). If you’re tired of reading Self-Help books that promote forgiveness and clean, easy recovery, then take a leaf out of someone who has actually been there and not with bleach and plastic gloves on. I’d quote nearly every poem in this book to illustrate reasons why it has to exist, but that would spoil so much and I’d rather you discovered Kindra Austin’s work for yourself.

And then there’s this; “There are 300 seconds in 5 / fucking minutes, and / 3,600 seconds in 1 hour, / which means there are 86,400 seconds in 24 hours, / or 1,440 minutes in a goddamned day. / All of that translates to a lot of fucking time spent forgetting to remember you’re dead.” (Never Any Good at Math). I’ve reviewed a lot of people’s work but I don’t want to say anything more here. I just want you to read Kindra Austin’s book, Twelve.