The Living Bark

James Miller


I heard
a jackhammer
in the bathroom.

We have to re-do the floors, she shouted.
Coughed in the tile-dust.

I have to get ready
for work, she said. Turned to the mirror,
started shaping her hair.

A short day,
we’re painting

I thought it was a long day,
I said. Rehearsing the assassination

The thing I hate
about those New Wave films,
she said. They’re always reading,
then quoting. We used to see two or three
a week, sometimes Polish,
or Czech. So many books,
I was keeping a list.
The sleeping dead.

The black ties,
I said. White shirts
stuffed down their pants.
It was always late morning,
early afternoon. You wouldn’t want
to be a dog in those apartments,
one of theirs. Never make it out
of Paris alive.

She pushed past me
into the bedroom, flipped through
a pile of workshirts
on the vanity.

How about this one,
she asked. From McDonald Observatory,
an equation for dark energy
scrawled across the front.

Why not, I said.
Stage paint will stand out
on the black. An anarchist
sweating in cheap rooms,
cradling his gun.

She pulled on jeans,
tied her sprinter’s shoes.
Remember, she said,
we have to be at the airport
by nine. Meet me at terminal B,
I can come straight
from campus.

A warm sun,
I said. Ooze
down the living bark.

She slowed
long enough to see me.
You always know,
she said. You always

what to say.


James Miller is a native of the Texas Gulf Coast. He is published in Best Small Fictions 2021 (Sonder Press) and the Marvelous Verses anthology (Daily Drunk Press). Recent pieces have appeared in Sugar House Review, Door is a Jar, JMWW, Dunes Review, Psaltery & Lyre, CV2, and The Inflectionist Review. Follow on Twitter @AndrewM1621. Website:



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