“fishmoth” by Kharys Ateh Laue

photograph courtesy of Raphaela Linders


I afterwards the horror of that day recurs as a nightmyth / again he comes through the swing door and

again i think it is a mistake / no no / i shout /

this is the women’s changing room / i rush with my arms outstretched intending to block his gaze / then i see the look in him and stop. II he is big / forearms of hawser-muscle / veins raised underskin-blue / silver eyes watching screams stream through the air like confetti / women scattering until all are gone but one / she stands alone before the mirrors / human blowfish / arms swaddled in lumpfat / thighs stuffed full of flesh / she has come here to pare off these things. III as her husband advances she opens her mouth and cocks her tongue and tastes the air between them / he takes her and guides her throat-first against his shoulder / it is quiet now / i am his on-looker / he reaches into his back pocket and extracts an implement of some kind. IV i cannot see what it is he holds / but his wife knows / she begins to shout & writhe / i am impossibly small / a fishmoth inked between words / he speaks stillness into her body and then turns and looks at me / he watches with flat metal eyes / i think he is going to smile but he does not. V he sinks his eyes far into mine and reaches around to her spine / she is shouting again / i cannot see what he is doing to her but the clap of hurt rolls her eyes / he watches me / his shoulder pumping up&down up&down / his lips flat / his eyes flat / her belly round with screaming. VI afterwards the mirror is a rectangular silver eye watching silent walls / plywood lockers / shafts of cool white light / i look into the panoptic stare of my mirrored self and ask /

how could you have /

in the nightmyth i get down for these words.

Kharys Ateh Laue is a South African writer whose short fiction has appeared in Cleaver Magazine, Jalada, Brittle Paper, New Contrast, Itch, and Pif Magazine. In 2017, her short story “Plums” was longlisted for the Short Story Day Africa Prize. Her academic work, which focuses on the depiction of race, gender, and animals in South African fiction, has been published in English Studies in Africa, Scrutiny2, and the Journal of Literary Studies. She currently lives in Port Elizabeth.

Raphaela Linders is a South African visual storyteller who uses the medium of analogue photography and videography to document her day-to-day experiences. She is currently working towards a Masters of Fine Art, in which she is exploring the complexity of digital representations of the self. She currently lives in Makhanda, South Africa.

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