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/kelly gray

The History of Brother

I unfurl my body at the bay. Light a fire to burn the tip of boot, throw in the silhouette of back. This is where we fish for leopard sharks. You pull the brown spotted body from cold blue, because blue is only cold.

I watch you watch the clouds reflected in the wet back of shark before you sink your hunting knife in. No one gave you this knife, you were born with it in your hand, you came out cutting November. We slit the bodies of stingrays and hang them from boughs of cypress.

A broken home of usnea creaks against tide. Blood pools in sand, coagulates against eelgrass. You show me how the skin can hold urine, how to pull out the lace of spine.

After we return and scrub oil from skillet, you put on my dress, ask me to make your eyes pretty. I worry about you that night, not because you are dressed as a girl, but because you are dressed as me.

The History of Fire & Black Eyes

If you read the texts books you will know that fire is energy and fire is fuel. If you look out at the forest, you will see that trees are defined by the space around them. If you want to know what that space is called, we will call it Not Trees. This is how we will center the forest in the act of combustion, even when your home is made of wood. Birds fly through the Not Trees. Insects rub wings into the night of Not Trees. Bears with shoulders that smell of fish paper push through berried bramble while in the furthest reaches of Not Trees, you will see stars, which leads us back to fire.

Fire is the manifestation of waiting for your life to become a Not Life. You wait for the tree to become a Not Tree, to bleed into oxygen. You walk the neighborhood, counting the sirens hanging from bark. You recount the states of matter; solid, liquid, gas, plasma. When the lightening touches down, you count the space between bolt and boom. This is a way to track miles, which is a measurement of how quickly you can drive while your legs are shaking.

You crawl to the top of the rock to see if your hair stands on end. You open your mouth, a flash flies in. You are the space that can burn. Plasma. Luminous. Your synapses fire, because fire just means reaction. You have carved your neural pathways into deep trenches along the side of man’s hand breaking your face.

Fire moves like someone socking you in the eye and taking your home.

You travel light and learn to duck. You count the space between beer lips and sidewalk. This is a way to track miles, which is a measurement of how quickly you can drive while your legs are shaking.

Fire came for the forest and licked it slow. Licked all the space between trees and Not Trees. Between fist and home. Took the sky and made it lung infection. Took the deer and made them dust. Took the bobcat and made them hairless. The fish swam singing, ‘We are solid in the home of liquid, waiting for the mouth of bear.’ The bear moves west. The forest moves west. We all lean towards water with bruised sockets of migration.

Kelly Gray (she/her/hers) is a writer, playwright, and educator in rural Northern California on occupied Coast Miwok land, deep in fire country. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Passages North, Pithead Chapel, Hobart, Under a Warm Green Linden, The Normal School, Barren Magazine, Lunch Ticket and elsewhere. She is the author of Instructions of an Animal Body (Moon Tide Press) and the audio chapbook My Fingers are Whales and other stories of Cetology (Moon Child Press). She was a finalist for Best of the Net and nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2020. You can read more of her work at and follow her at @_west_of_west. t.

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