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The Sweat

Nathan Slinker

The sweat the men have built beside the river is plastic pipe, blankets, tarpaulin, dirt. Its door is hanging words on water’s hook. Celestial outlines glint like scales of fish parading bright through heaven’s steady current. The stones begin to glow—embodied burn— so six are snatched back from fire to pail. These gizzarded gems will heat the children’s sweat. To stone and fire the curious kids come running. The girl has brought the water jug inside so Jan unblankets the door, so Charlie leads. The breathing is slow and real, a rhythm of hot, the healing pain of huffing steam. They dash the stones again… again with water. Thick and red, the topmost stone glows like a human heart held in steel hands. Their hands become the hands of other children, each lung the hissing lung of summer. Sweat… sweat… the sweat renouncing skin for air forever until the small and silent girl abandons the makeshift lodge and strides the sand. In the time of a single gasped breath she’s diving into cold like a blade the smithy plunges down. The girl is born as snow and she is river. She surfaces to breathe and the water on skin is streams of naked glisten. The wet is flesh, is cold as blood. And this is how she learns that the sky of her slender body is largely cloud and fire but an ancient gift to honor her storm.

forty one

Stones the size of organs roost in fire. A pot of coffee steams, though beer is choice this hour. As Charlie rolls some bratwurst, Jan, his wife, can hear their child in open flame. Sons and daughters pull each other through a game of trees, their freeze tag branches still, but one girl, their girl, quiet like the stones, captures river in a jug for Charlie and sees the dusk float by in a salmon corpse: a pink of spawning swept on darkened skin.

Profile for Brushfire Literature & Arts

Edition 63 Volume 1  

Fall 2010. Brushfire is UNR's oldest literature & arts journal. Brushfire publishes biannually, check out our website for more info! unrbrus...

Edition 63 Volume 1  

Fall 2010. Brushfire is UNR's oldest literature & arts journal. Brushfire publishes biannually, check out our website for more info! unrbrus...

Profile for brushfire
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