Subtitles: 50

Matthew James Babcock


Take a moment to silence all the days you weren’t silent.  If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to ask yourself if there is anything you can do.  To ensure a positive experience for everyone, refrain from forgetting that you hold a newborn child the way that in the flawed bowl of your hands you collect the chilly blue tones of a leafless February morning in Lafayette Square, the frumpy clumps of tourists in rumpled brown coats, Styrofoam cups of coffee steaming their red noses, bursts of sparrows strafing the sky.  Your path is marked, located on either side.  For your convenience, these safety features are found in your subconscious, so please take a minute and relive the sudden andante stroll of your blood the first time you saw your lover, the eye-widening shock of your only broken bone—digital phalange on your left ring finger, crushed under the gray boulder you were bearhugging when you stumbled the summer you worked the grunt crew at Deer Valley Ski Resort to pay off your fiancée’s engagement ring—and the day it was your turn to bring snacks to school—and your mom, always the health nut—she dispatched you to First Presbyterian Church on South Buchanan Street where you attended kindergarten (the city couldn’t afford another building), two brown paper sacks bulging with boxes of Sunmaid raisins under your arms.  And when you and your older brother took a scrambling shortcut through the dry riverbed, you slipped on a stone shawled in papery pale green moss and the sacks went flying, exploding like perverse piñatas, sending red raisin boxes clattering into the dusty crevices of the riverbed.  As you staggered doggedly ahead, cheeks streaked with a filthy paste of tears, the brown paper sacks in tatters, your older brother vamoosed, you dropped as many boxes as you gathered in your arms, eventually arriving like some hapless flea market merchant at the vacant bus transfer to find a stern woman in a slick floral raincoat and transparent vinyl rain bonnet volunteering for bus duty. When you said you missed your bus, your voice quivering like a raindrop on glass, without altering the scowl on her withered face she doddered with the stolid resolve of the grandmother of Frankenstein’s monster into the office to call your mother, who arrived in her daisy-spangled kitchen apron, smiling and assuring you things would be okay as she drove you to school, and your contorted visions of trauma resolved into the knowledge that the world was a safe place where bigger people took care of smaller people, and that when you became bigger you would make the world safe for smaller people, too.  Here at Skyways your sanctity is our highest priority.  Please keep all insights clear, keeping in mind that your nearest regret may be behind you.  Thank you for choosing to try with us.  Make sure to leave all valuables where others can find them, and in the event of emergence, your exit, illuminated, is in front of you.

Now Before We Die, A Few Housekeeping Rules


Matthew James Babcock teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at BYU-Idaho in Rexburg. His debut nonfiction collection, Heterodoxologies, is available from Educe Press. His poetry collections—Points of Reference and Strange Terrain—are available from Folded Word and Mad Hat Press. His two debut fiction collections—Four Tales of Troubled Love and Future Perfect—are forthcoming from Harvard Square Editions and Ferry Street Press in January and May 2019.


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