A Case for Cliché
There once was a woman who made the dead come alive when she spoke. As she mouthed words and ideas and sayings and stories so often used that the eyes no longer translated their meaning from the page, the words and ideas and sayings and stories danced back into the syllables that contained them. When the woman spoke, the dead resumed the song that sang them into being, and they came to sing in the cells of the girl who listened.
There once was a woman who believed so deeply in the dead that she returned to them their meaning. She did not do this by entering the dead world through a contemporary lens. The woman returned the dead by lunging her body into the shapes where the letters that formed her words stood. She did this by breathing her hot breath into the Ts and settling her hips into a well-structured e. She inhabited the dead by leaning all her weight into a conviction that ended on an ing. She did this by widening her eyes and lowering her voice and shifting her heft toward a final plot twist that had since hung like a bean stalk in autumn.
There once was a woman who fed the dead while stirring gravy on the stove. The lesson of the parable she shared came spilling over her landing on the final words, spaced at an emphatic distance one from the other, and pierced the lung of the one who listened. Often, the one who listened would be distraught and had come for comfort, for advice, or for food.
Often, the woman knew this and dressed her tongue in softness and so much nice. Often, she opened her throat for the dead to fly through.
There once was a woman who scraped the language off the lungs of the dead and mixed it into a poultice. She added bromide in dashes and certitude in spoonfuls. She applied the potion to the lungs of the one who listened. She lifted the lilt of her voice and let it rise in waves through a story that peaked at its prescribed ending. The one who listened would by then be sleeping.
There once was a woman who reanimated the dead because she did not trust the living.
There once was a woman who listened to a woman who reanimated the dead because she did not yet trust she could live.
There once was a woman who listened to the dead in the body of the breathing and was able to live.
Stephanie Sauer is an interdisciplinary artist and author of Almonds Are Members of the Peach Family (Noemi Press) and The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force (University of Texas Press). She currently teaches prose writing in Stetson University’s MFA of the Americas program.