‘Ferocity” © Steven Ostrowski


schizo skips school

The phone quietly opens its eyes and fits a lidded stare on my lips, trembling beneath this gauze of chip dust –

I start and lick it up, dubbing my fingers anxiously against the black jeans before realizing how unbecoming that must seem. Straighten shoulders a smooth at flyaway curls and trip to tuck the snack bag out of sight.

I can see them seeing me. Those eyes with their too bold smear of disappointment as the crowd of spirits begin to clamor for release, finger gripping the edge of the black face down screen

The pot gurgles insistence and I wince to remember the rough cuts my impatience made of celery and carrots, onion as well.

what a mess, what a nightmare. They must be horrified to see such a slovenly being, face stuffed with gluttony and too lazy for competence.

I imagine her shake of the head and roll of the eye as she shrinks with disgust from the cursory response she feels compelled to provide.

Don’t apologize. Don’t bother them- ah, don’t say anything more. Don’t.

Don’t. Don’t.

As the messages crowd round my head I come up with a thousand ways to apologize and hide and realize that cellphone and boiling over pot are both murmuring me back to now, scaring off the little ghosts that, having crawled from their metal enclave, lurk behind a cactus pot and glare balefully.

I grab a lighter and flick it to the reflective surface, wanting to hide those words of hate and disappear this entire conversation, my miserable little words and their inconvenience and the bridges I’ve already burned and turnt

The phone doesn’t catch but a metallic smell seeps out, bringing to my senses.

Ah, that won’t do.

I can’t burn my phone with a bic lighter on my wooden desk – The little shadows swarm up my arms begging agreement- I pinch the corner of the twice toxic brick and turn, lobbing it into a gas fire already strained by foam erupting from the pot above.

At last, something starts to burn.

I sit at the bed in a tidy room. One plastic shelf, one lightbulb on the ceiling. A dingy yellow sheet and locked yellow door

The woman across from me is crammed — looking used to being uncomfortable — into a chair that looks to be more comfortable with being unused.

“I’ll ask you questions, you don’t have to answer what you don’t want to”

An hour later, I’ve declined each question and she has less and less patiently explained why, actually, I have to answer each question

“Am I allowed to leave?” I ask again, wearily, and she says, well, why don’t you think about that, and leaves

An hour later another oversized woman is squeezed into another undersized folding chair with her own set of curls questions and quickly drained patience

After a few minutes of going nowhere, I stand, nod wordlessly, and pull the fire alarm by the door.

It unlocks and I give a level stare to the shocked faces behind the glass screen, flip my fingers cordially, and leave with all the time in the world reclaimed under these free roaming feet

Along the sidewalk I nurse an extra large 99 cent gas station coffee gleefully, worse than the hospital coffee just barely but in its own distinct and entirely enjoyable way. There’s a slim figure with long strides and clean nails in the reflections of passing cars.

Yes, this is me. Capable. Confident. Real.

A man I know from the silhouette- straight shoulders, straight figure – was the reflection him – I wonder in a scatter off of this lazy shoulder roll these empty curls, the way my eyes squint into bulges of fat in the sun, and how my hands in their back pocket slouch just draw attention to my large hips, which, as though hearing me, quickly expand.

they green and glomp at the edges of my pants, transforming into rounds of caterpillars that bunch and spool, munch up more and more of the sidewalk space – The words I’d been practicing in my head for days to see him again -“Ah, x, right? I thought you might be interested in the book club discussion charc books is holding on “fate” this week……” – submerged in this new monstrosity emerging from my body, no longer seeing as he passes me, pavement squeezing into his feet as they churn

soupy morass, me, now inescapable, unfatable


JH is a graduate student. They have been published in Lit.Cat, Quail Bell Quarterly, and Beautiful Discourse, among other places.

Steven Ostrowski is a poet, a fiction writer, a painter and teacher. His work appears widely in literary journals, magazines and anthologies. He is the author of five published chapbooks–four of poems and one of stories. He and his son Ben are authors of a full-length collaboration called Penultimate Human Constellation, published in 2018 by Tolsun Books. His chapbook, After the Tate Modern, won the 2017 Atlantic Road Prize and is published in 2018 by Island Verse Editions. His artwork has appeared in literary journals, including on the cover of the inaugural issue of Lily Poetry Review.