All day I worry. My hair. It’s falling out all over the dog, all over the living room sofa. “It’s stress,” a friend says. “You are always thinking too much.”
My sister calls to let me know that she’s had a stroke. “Just a mini,” she says. “Nothing interesting. The doctor said it hardly counts.” I never know what to believe when it comes to family, a roomful of unreliable characters.
The clock is broken. Ghosts of old lovers live with me now. I find a bottle of perfume from one, an email from another. I stare at his words, pretending for a moment he’s still alive.
The sky isn’t ours. That’s a hard thing to grasp. I want more than anything to claim it.
“There’s nothing to do,” I tell my dog. “So why is it impossible to do it?” He sniffs at my hair like the God of forgiveness. But what does it mean —"my dog”?
I was not yet a ghost in my life when my mother was alive, when she was telling me that I needed to learn how to live with what was too beautiful to keep. “You’re greedy,” she’d say. “Let the beautiful things go, and they’ll return in some other form.”
at home when you aren’t home anymore
Today, a woman is yelling at the pharmacist. At home, your kid contemplates his graffiti program. Your mother is angry at your former brother-in-law. Last night your sister broke down on the phone, can’t pay her property taxes. The dog looks fat. You have been too busy to walk him, too anxious to go out for exercise. The clouds are pregnant. You are lonely. When you touch your husband, you want to be holding the cat—the one who died last week.
This was first published in Unbroken Journal.
There are no signs of extra-terrestrial life: Only two itchy dogs in the garden. One dog carries a blanket, lies down on it. Ma is sure she saw a spaceship float down into the neglected orchard after martinis last night. I'm on security patrol. My branch of the oak will be comfortable to sit with a pomegranate and an orange. Carrying them in my pockets up to the lookout, scouting for aliens in the leaves. We'll move as the rent increases, but for now; sour wood sorrel invades our grass, fleas terrorize the dogs, Ma stays in, and I imagine this house belonging to creatures who know what to do about life here on Earth.
This was first published in Gone Lawn.
Soup and TV
I stand near the boiling stockpot warming my fingers while the chicken and vegetables melt, the smell making our apartment strong. Canned wind howls from the TV screen in the living room, omitting a cool glow. Marcus loves man against nature shows which are really just a buff looking model dude talking to himself (and his hidden film crew) before lunch which is probably catered sushi. I serve Marcus the fresh broth on a lockable tray, move his legs from couch to the floor, bend my knees to avoid using my back. He drinks soup with a special deep spoon - and though his fingers tremble, they are able to grasp. I sit with him, cheek against his warm shoulder, watching the man trapped between two icy mountain ranges build a fire out of sticks.
This was first published in Queen Mob’s Tea House.
Beautiful, Expanding Cats
Our cats are watching us watch them. We watch them, free of all human concerns. We watch them lounging in the sun, warming to each other’s bodies. It’s sad having only one cat, we think, and that’s why we don’t. Sunny mornings are always just like this. We, being proud of them. We, being proud of our conversations. There is nowhere else to be, nobody to impress, no life left to live except for the life in our tiny house. Her turtle keychain, my dumb hats, a growing collection of oddities. Moth-bitten sweaters, toothpaste splotched jeans. Such beautiful, expanding cats.
This was first published in Your Impossible Voice.
A middle-aged psychiatrist wants to unearth the actual woman from a deep hole in which she lives. How lovely and strange you are, he tries not to say to her, while she is lounging on the sofa in his office. He stares out the window, looking for one bright red bird. Wonders aloud, "Who, then, is the real Minnie Parkinson? And why the hell does she wear such terrible purple glasses?" He wonders these things, in his securely married way.
Meg Pokrass is the author of nine collections of flash fiction and two novellas in flash. Her work has been published in three Norton anthologies of flash including Flash Fiction America, New Micro, and Flash Fiction International; Best Small Fictions 2018, 2019, 2022, and 2023; Wigleaf Top 50; and hundreds of literary journals including Electric Literature, McSweeney’s, Washington Square Review, Split Lip, storySouth, and Passages North. Her new collection, The First Law of Holes: New and Selected Stories by Meg Pokrass, is forthcoming from Dzanc Books in late 2024. Find her on Twitter @megpokrass.