Uncle Lazarus has a magic trick by Cheyenne McIntosh

he’s come to live with us now that he can’t go home
after he tried to set fire to Mary and Martha in the middle of the night,
weeping about how his old man touched him, back in the Old Country

now there’s a restraining order and a court date, so Uncle sleeps
at the foot of my bed, spilling his drink in my bedsheets
and telling stories from day-trips to the family lake

he wakes me up early this morning, with a treasure to show me:
I follow him through the house, hearing Bathsheba’s breath through the walls
as she sleeps, knowing the rules of being alone with Uncle

there’s an overturned glass waiting for us on the bathroom counter:
inside a cluster fly, the kind that slips in through our windows for winter
before dying, leaving behind a honey smell and their eggs within our walls

these are easy flies for trapping – they float lazily from room to room,
easier to catch and kill with their speed and size – and Uncle has drowning plans,
carefully lifting the glass to insert a straw filled with water, his dirty finger

a stopper until the placement is right and he rains down his prey, the fly
struggling at first before giving up – its tiny insect lungs filling with water,
its delicate wings wet and heavy and immobile – and this is the first living thing

I have ever watched die. Uncle watches my face, his dirty finger tracing the
tears on my lips before he pulls a salt shaker out of his pajama pocket,
the one he uses at night for his tequila game, licking his hand before shooting back

he buries the fly in the salt and tells me the story about that time
he tried to teach my mother to swim in the lake and she almost drowned
because he was drinking and all little girls know how to swim in the Old Country

it’s easy to drown, he explains as the salt dries up the water,
the cluster fly now awake again and climbing out of its salt-grave

 

Cheyenne McIntosh is an undergraduate at Franklin College, where she writes about gender-queer studies in science fiction. She’s the Leading Poetry Editor of Brave Voices Magazine and an editorial intern for Juxtaprose Magazine and Sundress Publications. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in carte blanche, Likely Red Press, Digital Americana Magazine, Small Po[r]tions, and elsewhere. In 2018, she was named as one of Indiana’s Best Emerging Poets and received her first Pushcart Prize nomination. You can find her @crm_writes.

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