“The Unliving Louis Jackson and Living Me”, “The Clouds Are Mountains” and “Shackles”

by Mallory Rader

The Unliving Louis Jackson and Living Me

He lived a long life—a normal span of
9 to 5 and bright eviction notices on front doors.
He would tell his wife every night before bed,
“I will wake up tomorrow and do better.”

He awoke to blackness, pupils enlarging,
skin deteriorating—eaten away by worms,
beetles, the only other life source under-ground.

Above his body stands a weathered wooden cross—
cracking down the sides, black splits surrounded
by rusted nails and swirls of white,

and below, caressed by grass and fake flowers,
sits a ceramic angel fractured across the chest,
covered in mold and fungi, carrying a harp in its

left arm. I can feel his inadequacy, his mortality,
and then, the bleeding out of intricate moss—pink
flowers, green leaves, and his life sprouting through.

The Clouds Are Mountains

The clouds are mountains that gather across
windshields and display pictures that
toddlers scribble into hopeful blue triangles

on white paper. Ones that they will
give as gifts to grown-ups who have
seen the actual elevation of Pike’s Peak, all 1,411 feet,
in comparison to the grounds of Ohio.

They won’t have the heart to tell the child
that the mountains, nor the clouds, spill out
into straight lines connecting at the seams. That

the picture looks nothing like the change of
blue and pink cumulonimbus clouds
that now line the horizon of the town that spelled out
who I wasn’t in water and ice.

They remind me of a man I saw in hospital room
307. The gray walls with no windows lined his
desperation as he held his head in his palms.

I recall how he looked at me and smiled,
while hopelessness still brushed across his cheeks.
They remind me of our wish to be anywhere but
where we were and of the

chance I had to scrub my skin clean
in the Crystal Creek Reservoir of Colorado.
I would sit on the bottom and let the sand
collect between my toes until it cemented.

I drive straight and straight and straight
in hopes of hitting the mountains head on,
but the same road of bare-black trees leads me
past clouds and to my home

in Ohio.

Shackles

The year tectonic plates shifted and
overlapped, you stood in a canyon with
your feet sewed to the rocks. When
your faith—your word of God, your
version of the King James Bible—were
all simultaneously put into a paper
shredder, you sat down on the pavement
with your knees in your hands. You
looked up and saw the blue that
made up just a sky, just a sky, just a sky.
You wiped the tears, or sweat, from your
cheek bones and rocked back and forth.
You immersed yourself into a tub of water,
like the way you nearly drowned
when you were younger—honest-to-God,
it had to have been Him who saved you.
When the clouds fell to the Earth’s surface,
you picked each individual blade of
grass and created a pile of what was once
living at your feet. You got down on
the ground and looked directly into
the weeds growing in the cracks of the
sidewalk. You memorized your thumb
print and tried to see it in the bark
of the trees. You stood in the rain, and
directly under a water hose, to see if
you could feel the difference between
creation and man.
The year the world collapsed, you wondered
if it was freedom or enslavement.

About the Author

Mallory Rader

Mallory Rader spends a majority of her time in the fetal position. She is currently working on a Bachelor's of English at Youngstown State University and is not quite sure if the world is real or if we are all Sims characters. She received the 2018 Hare Writing Award for Poetry, the Etruscan Prize for Poetry, and has been published in Fourth and Sycamore, Penguin Review, and Ink and Voices.