​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

​barbara harroun

Nicotine Dreams

(Week 1)

The sky is low hung, a pregnant black cat.
A set of blue stairs rising to clouds that bend and move,
unfurling like fists. The steps curve to catapult me.
In the dark air there is nothing to hang onto.

The driver watches me while he steers. I do not know him.
He smiles and says navigate. He pops in the lighter on the dashboard.
The movement is fluid and lovely. Quick sand.

An attic. Man on a bed, naked and whispering a language
I do not know. He covers his genitals with hands mimicking a fig leaf,
an umbrella, a tea cup. The soft skin of his abdomen is powder white—
black hieroglyphics spread across his stomach. What do they mean?
He lifts his hands, flutters his fingers like Charlie Chaplin. Below
his penis opens and undulates, sea anemone.

A friend lost to Texas and marriage and misunderstanding
appears in fuchsia sweat pants and familiar white trench coat. I chase him
follow sixteen steps behind. Hide out on a street corner as he smokes on
church steps. I light a cigarette, palm my smoke and exhale criminally.
I am lonely for his blonde, curly hair and short legs. I pray
I will hear him laugh. I think, This is my last one, I swear. No one can know.

I take my mother to my apartment. It has been gutted, rampaged by
flames. A layer of ash has settled like nuclear snow. We take a staircase
down to the ground and the planks are trembling charcoal. My mother
touches my arm and points up. Two birds, whose blue feathers flinch and shiver 
like fish scales are mating. From the softness of their eyes, I know they experience

pleasure. I look to my mother. Her face softens, blooms with a pleasure not her own.

Barbara Harroun is an Assistant Professor at Western Illinois University. Her most recent work is forthcoming or appearing in Circus Book, Fiction Southeast, Empty Sink, Per Contra Fiction, and Spelk. Her favorite creative endeavors are her awesome kids, Annaleigh and Jack. When she isn’t writing, reading or teaching, she can be found walking her beloved dog, Banjo or engaging in literacy activism and radical optimism.