SmokeLong Quarterly
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Hawesville, Kentucky
by Nance Knauer

art by Marty D. Ison
art by Marty D. Ison
Six weeks after they rip my guts out, remove anything female and staple me back together, I follow you up the mountain. Your boots fly from rock to log to the muddy gravel along Jeffer’s Creek. You run that trail like you’re twenty years old again. I limp behind you, stop and tear a splinter from a red cedar stump and suck it dry. The snap on my jeans is open and my belly spills out like a blister. Something hurts inside, something itches like crazy and I want to tell you to wait, but watching you leap and climb leaves me mute.

When you reach the top and wave, my face is red from the hollow furnace that is now my body. I don’t know what else to do, so I unsnap my shirt, the blue one you said was too small for you, and I stand in the noon sun. My hands form clumps behind my back, dirt clods I can't break. I squeeze harder.

“Can you make it?” you ask, “or should I come back down?”

“I’m a little tired,” I say. “Just give me a minute.” Sweat runs along the gullies of my neck. Look, I try to say, look at what they left me. Is it enough? But you’re holding up a bleached skull as big as your fist and yelling, “The eagles must be back.” I can feel the wind pull at my nipples.

The doctor warned you, said “Leave her alone! Give her time to heal.” You never listened to doctors before. You never slept so quietly. I start walking toward the first scramble, curl my hand around a vine and breathe away the ache between my hips. I hang your shirt over a low branch.

“Give me your hand,” you’ll say when you reach down to help me over the last buckle of limestone. What if I do, and what if I stand close to you on that narrow ridge and pull your fingers to the puckered seam that runs across me like a frost crack? Will I still be able to hear the clawed apart bones of dead rabbits snapping beneath our boots?

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.



Nance Knauer lives too far from the lake and too close to the airport. As an MFA candidate at Queens University in Charlotte, NC, she's thinking of wiring her fingers directly to her laptop keyboard.

Read the interview.
Issue Ten (September 15, 2005): Capsicum by Anne Marie Jackson «» Donat Bobet's Halloween by Bruce Holland Rogers «» The Arrival by Nathan Leslie «» The Law by Edgar Omar Avilés, translated by Toshiya A. Kamei «» Five Fat Men in a Hot Tub by Jeff Landon «» Hoover by Cally Taylor «» Are You Okay? by Joshua Hampel «» The Kindness of Strangers by Otis Brown «» Mrs. Krishnan by Kuzhali Manickavel «» Crossing the Orinoco by William Reese Hamilton «» The Elements of Summer by Laura Stallard Petza «» Closer to Paul by Patti Jazanoski «» Hawesville, Kentucky by Nance Knauer «» He Stayed for Breakfast by Astrid Schott «» Gardening by Antonios Maltezos «» Outer Space by Tom Saunders «» Blind Love by Robert Bradley «» Arks by Alan Girling «» Chitlins by Bob Arter «» Strange Fruit by Suzanne Lafetra «» Interviews: Anne Marie Jackson «» Bruce Holland Rogers «» Nathan Leslie «» Toshiya A. Kamei «» Jeff Landon «» Cally Taylor «» Joshua Hampel «» Otis Brown «» Kuzhali Manickavel «» William Reese Hamilton «» Laura Stallard Petza «» Patti Jazanoski «» Nance Knauer «» Astrid Schott «» Antonios Maltezos «» Tom Saunders «» Robert Bradley «» Alan Girling «» Bob Arter «» Suzanne Lafetra «» Joseph Young «» Cover Art "The Creation of Time and the Plagiarism of Bosch" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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