Gone Lawn
a journal of word-things
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Gone Lawn 55
strawberry moon, 2024

Featured artwork, Lost for Words, by Andrea Damic

new works

Sarah Mills

Irene, My OCD Brain, Escapes a Flood

Irene says you cannot leave without me. Even though she is who I’m running from. A rainstorm has come, and the streets in my neighborhood have become rivers. I try not to imagine myself floating face-up near the ceiling, but fear waterlogs me. Irene is watching me pack. Pink silk eye mask. Air purifier. Antidepressants. Hand sanitizer. Space heater. Glass containers of pumpkin curry. You’ll get hungry, she says, and you know you won’t feel like leaving the hotel.

In the hotel room, I sit on the queen-size poster bed and feel as lonely as the mouth of a glass bottle. Only emptiness feels this heavy. The wind sounds like someone moving furniture in an upstairs apartment. Irene says you’re not alone, but the way she says it reminds me of a metal trash can lid tumbling down a dark street. I cry and cry.

I dream that I’m turning a table lamp on and off. It’s made of pink Depression glass and a vintage doll head snaps into its base. I can’t tell where the light is coming from. There is no land—only sea and the sky, from which it rains constantly. Irene is sailing a boat, riding each wave like a glissando, holding an umbrella over my head. There is no land but still my brain is a forest that light can’t cut through. Irene is singing a song about the rain. The words are clouds rivers oceans snow mist tears. I am holding a flashlight, trying to find my way out of the lungs of this poem where I keep getting lost. I am falling in reverse, climbing up into the clouds. Clouds rivers oceans snow mist tears.

Back home, Irene asks what I will do with my life once she’s no longer holding me back. Once the dam is broken. I don’t answer because I know that means the end of her. We stay awake all night. Streetlights buzzing green. We watch the water recede. Everything it takes with it. Everything it leaves behind.

Irene, My OCD Brain, Gets Insomnia

It’s 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day. I’m thinking about whether I should get out of bed to use the bathroom, even though I went ten minutes ago. What if you have to go again? asks Irene, and even though I don’t, the uncertainty keeps me awake. I distract myself by reminiscing about phone books—remember phone books? The surprise of finding one on your front porch like a bouquet of bright yellow tulips. I’m thinking about the allure of falling in love from a distance. If a phone book could measure that kind of distance, my name would be filed under A, and the name of my love would be filed under Z. So many paper miles between us—fake miles, like miles from the board game Life, with plastic people the color of Pepto Bismol. I ignore Irene when she asks what letter her name would be filed under. She says you don’t want anyone to get too close, because then you’ll have to introduce us. If I sleep with a pillow over my head, will she suffocate? I give it a try, but I can still hear her muffled voice saying something about the tiny blue flowers on my sheets. They are bluebells, she informs me, and, knowing how to get my attention, adds: their sap was once used for bookbinding. Then: their bulbs are diuretics. Now I’m thinking about peeing again. Irene says are you sure you want to write about this? Getting a poem published is like Styrofoam sitting in a landfill. It never disappears. She’s right—writing about her makes her tangible, something too heavy to float but too light to catch a full breath. I was hoping to leave her behind and start fresh in the new year. But I can’t escape the thought that there’s a pile of old phone books sitting in a landfill somewhere, and her name is in every one.

Sarah Mills is a Pushcart-nominated writer whose poetry has been published or is forthcoming in HAD, Rust & Moth, The Shore, Unbroken, Up the Staircase, SoFloPoJo, Beaver Mag, MoonPark Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Ballast, Miniskirt Mag and elsewhere. You can visit her at sarahmillswrites.com, and on Bluesky-@sarahmillswrites.