Listen to author
[audio:https://killauthor.com/audio/issueseventeen/nic_alea.mp3|titles=Voices|artists=Nic Alea]

on the third floor they found a gas mask and a bucket full
     of ice picks,
the beds were always singles so as not to attract two
     bodies to wrap
their battered limbs around each other.

this dialog is spawned by a downpour of saltwater with the intention of birthing rust on the eyelids. this conversation is stomach to mattress, elbow like tall sail. this speech is hollowed tones, the same language that bounces off the inside of an echo chamber:

voice i:

here again. some accidental wandering because i thought i had burned the map of these hills with my own hands. thought once to shed the ashes in the desert. thought twice to bring them to a summit transported in a jar cast from my own clay oven with my fingerprints melted on the rim. what brought me back here like a push from the wind up the side of a silo swaying empty and silent.

voice ii:

the elk eyes,
the baby bones,
the truth of the matter,
the observance,
the method,
the waterfalls that wish your backbone was a slab of river rocks equipped for a downpour,

and onwards. if i were your heart i would wear a cotton sun dress and hold a mirror in my right hand and a cup of butterflies in my wrong hand

i’d use the mirror to make sure that my face never reflected a snake’s ability to frighten without being heard and the cup of butterflies

would be a reminder of the hurricane suffocating new york city because when it blinks its eye, it’s all punctured like a tin house

in a rain of silverware. you say you burned the map to this place, but those directions, feeling your skin peel back letting the bone be

exposed and frozen is embedded in your muscle memory and if your voices are anything like the murmur of dying trees

in a graveyard then you have at least the fog as a deterrent and a constellation of forearms to shield you, because as a sorry soldier

of the hillside you still have enough wet cement to shove your born again initials in, so i’m sorry if my voice sounds like a rope swing in the sun

and you must hold yourself like a growing child that has just discovered the power of a steel framed horse, because my hands are filled to the palm

with spider webs and a lock jaw smile, but i’ll answer you in a voice that sounds so much like your own because it is the same without fingers pulling at the insides of your mouth.