My eyes follow the green glow 

of his kitchen walls as I lay on the floor,

The smell of his compost 

And our dying bouquets leaking 

Into my nostrils 

Like cigarette smoke hiding 

Behind a set of teeth. 

I think I feel my body being lifted, 

Floating up I make eye contact 

With the drying candle wax on his dining table.

But, as I look down, my hands are still 

Flat on the cold tile. 

I don’t feel its touch. 

It is all air. 

(I can sense when he enters a room 

Without needing to turn my head. 

A thin string of awareness 

Connects one rib cage to another.) 

In this moment, 

My eyes are still occupied by my fingers,



And down. 

Numb sparks shoot up my arms 

As if they are asleep 

Every time I make contact with the tile. 

My vision focuses on the pink glare 

That is blossoming from the space 

Between my touch and the floor. 

The doorway is at my head. 

My hair lifts ever so slightly 

As I feel him crossing the threshold of the kitchen.


The tug of the string feels dangerous, 

Like my bones are at the brink of their resistance,

Threatening to break through the skin. 

I feel the sudden urge to run past his dark form,

Through his rotting front door, 

And into the night. 

I long for the cold from the pavement to seep into

The soles of my feet. 

I hear the music of my blood too close to my eardrums. 


I stay, 

And instead, 

I feel his arms before he starts to reach for me.

Bells is an Oakland based artist who works in poetry, painting, and drawing. They explore through their work the poetic interconnections between our physical and spiritual bodies with nature and inanimate objects. 

Arsimmer McCoy is a 34-year-old storyteller and the mother to a righteous 10-year old girl child. Born in Baptist Hospital, raised in Richmond Heights, Fl. Arsimmer earned her Bachelor’s degree of Arts and literature at the historic Florida Memorial University and picked up a few things as a theater major, at the University of Evansville in Indiana. Arsimmer gives thanks for being able to produce work in the form of poetry, short story literature, creative writing, performance, educational workshops, and creative direction, for over twelve years. McCoy resides in Miami Gardens, which she will still refer to, until the day she dies, as Carol City.

cheshire cat

Don’t ever mistake me again. 

My smile is not an invitation 

for baseless declarations. 

It is the black silk slip 

my mama made me wear, 

under my dress for church, 

so no one could see through to 

my unmentionables. 

It’s the stockings over my chicken pox scars 

and playground war wounds. 

My tiny purse carrying nothing 

but candy wrappers, a note pad, and crayons. 

When I got grown, it became red paint on coffin nails. 

My smile is merely a clever covering 

I have utilized, 

like many other items, 

given to be by my mother. 

I remember her washing me in the bathtub. 

My mother cupped my face in her hands. 

The corners of my lips curled and she told me, 

“this is where your peace begins”. 

My smile is a dance. 

It is shade in a comfortable place. 

What my smile is not; 

It is not a vulnerable place for you 

to lay your hands. 

It is not a sign of submission. 

It is not target practice to relieve 

You after a day of hell and unrelenting 


Don’t mistake my smile for shame. 

Don’t make that mistake again. 

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© 2020 by Opal Literary Journal.