Elizabeth J. Colen




It’s an active volcano, the mountain: Shuksan. We live in an earthquake zone, calm north on the ring of fire. The house is on stilts for the waves, and rats eat tea biscuits and leave on suggestion. “We will live forever,” you say, meaning them. And the water looks brilliant from here.

Silver, pellucid, much like the sky.


None of us will notice the sunbathers, the tourists trying to surf, the tourists trying to sail. We won’t see the parade of push-pop wrappers scattered in wet sand, we won’t see the cops or the dog watching,

or the kelp strangling posts of the pier.


“It’s a metaphor,” you say. Sun low, wet rocks roll. Your father never hit you. It was the neighborhood kids who cracked eggs in your hair, it was they who brought rocks, had quick fists. Bullets of blood on your forehead, how the scalp will leech into a collar.

But then this, too, is no longer true.


From one window I can see the water and from the other I can see the mountains. These are not real mountains, this is not real water, these are not real windows. I hold your hand and our upstairs disappears.

I think of particles exploding, coming back together like some physics experiment I don’t know the name for. “Large Hadron Collider,” you say.

But that’s not what I mean.


For a long time when you were a child you thought you didn’t exist if your mother wasn’t with you. What was this called? You were invisible and no one spoke to you and the silence supported the theory, except for the bells ringing in doorways and the tap of your loose shoelace. “But did you pass through walls?” I ask and you say this has nothing to do with perte de vue. You lay under chairs while weight creaked the springs. Your mother’s hand came into the frame—

and you were real again, visible, whole.



Elizabeth J. Colen is the author of poetry collections Money for Sunsets (Steel Toe Books, 2010) and Waiting Up for the End of the World: Conspiracies (forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press, October 2012, and launching at Hugo House on October 25 at 7:00 pm), as well as flash fiction collection Dear Mother Monster, Dear Daughter Mistake  (Rose Metal Press, 2011). She lives in Seattle and occasionally blogs at elizabethjcolen.blogspot.com.