The Edge; Occam's Razor
By: Claire Van Winkle
As I lay in bed suffering the injury of flu you leaned over me, armed with a damp cloth, your thin fingers running through the hair that clung to my temples, my eyes clenched shut against an artillery of ache. To distract me you told me the story of how when you were nine years old you were playing ciuciubabka on the raised deck
of the old Bridgeport house and you fell. How a grenade of swelling erupted above
your blindfold. How my great-grandmother borrowed your uncle’s butcher blade—
its steel shank chill, even in the dull heat of a south-side summer—and pressed its side against you where you hurt. I thought you meant she’d cut you—some immigrant punishment, harsh justice for playing too hard, or worse: the terrible slip of an old woman with bad eyes. But I didn’t interrupt to ask; my throat was dry and you were caught in the jags of memory, twisting that soaked rag.
And you looked so happy.
What scared me most was how coolly I submitted to fever. How little it took for me to long for your childhood knife—its clean power and sharp promise. Bright with heat and pain, my glassy eyes fixed on your vacant smile, I could almost see its edge on your face like the heavy hand of a safe and brutal nurse.
This morning, I scraped last night's ghost-white powder into a thin line, mine for inspiration, and found myself in the prone mirror, the whole world louder for a moment, then numb as my skin filled with light. I took a breath, calmed the humming- bird stirring in her cage of ribs, shook the stones from my shoulders, one by one pulled my bones from their dusty shelf of come-down sleep—and as the thin veil of Brooklyn's brownstone- tinted dawn lifted, history sifted its litanies from the fugue of my persistent waking dreams. I rode the high, embraced intoxication’s second sight, and saw—distant, but clear— another life, almost close enough to touch. But then, just as fast, the lines of that new story were erased, replaced by razor-thin rules like bars across the specter of my face— simplicity— easy as a blade that cuts both ways.
Claire Van Winkle is a poet, fiction writer, essayist, and literary translator. Her poetry appears in publications including The PennReview, The Exposition Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Oddville Press, Poor Yorick, No Dear, The Thieving Magpie, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Three Line Poetry, Sixfold, and anthologies by Rogue Scholars and Black Lawrence Press. Her short fiction, literary essays, and translation reviews have been featured in Belle Ombre, 3 Percent, and Prometheus Dreaming.
Claire has been the recipient of several honors including the inaugural Queens College Foundation Scholarship for Poetry Writingand Literary Translation, an American Literary Translators Association Travel Fellowship, an American Academy of Poets Award, the Mary M. Fay Poetry Award, and the Lenore Lipstein Memorial Prize for Formal Poetry. Claire runs the Rockaway Writers' Workshop and teaches writing and literature at CUNY and SUNY. In addition to her creative and academic pursuits, she advocates for the mental health community through a Writing Therapy project she initiated at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.