about the author

Shawnacy Kiker is a full-fledged, if slightly reluctant, member of the human race. She thrives on a hearty diet of books, music, ideas and tea; and is committed to a life of wrangling thoughts and smithing redemption. Holding a BA in Spanish Literature, Shawnacy has taught a love of the written word to students from kindergarten to college. Her poetry and prose has been published by various kind people in books and around the Web. She resides in sunny and overpopulated Southern California, and dreams of someday residing somewhere else. Her Web site is shawnacykiker.com.

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Ataro[s] at Night

Shawnacy Kiker

Ataro sits on the steps of the empty swimming pool late at night. She dangles her feet in invisible waters and watches the stars ripple on the liquid surface that is not. She used to swim here as a girl.

Once, on a night of new moon, she saw the small Ataro standing just here, on the second step, it was day (in the dark) and young Ataro was thin and bright and wearing a green bathing suit with a ruffle in the back and a large strawberry across the front. Her hair was a riot of stiff pigtails, and she held out her hands to her mother, who stood in the water just before her. Her small toes wiggled ceaselessly under the clear water, and her laugh was orchids and bells and bleached white sand dollars. Ataro had stood, watching her, transparent as a ghost, momentarily sharing space.

She’d seen herself other times. In other places. Other Ataros. Sitting at the table in the morning—older—drinking her coffee with milk and watching quietly out the window. Her hands had been clasped together like a coil of thick rope, aged and sculpted by a restless sea. She had been wearing a silk coat of deep, transparent red, and her hair was long and coarse, a rough grey trailing cloud.

But it was the swimming pool she would always come back to. It was the place where the world turned blue-green and time floated slowly, diffusing like whale-song in the wet black womb of ocean. She felt herself fanned out, so. As though the binding of her spine had broken, and the various thin layers of herself were shaken out into the world like the loose leaves of a book. In those moments, Ataro herself grew thin. A single layer, glinting in the phantom luminescence of the empty swimming pool in the moonlight, like the shade of longing.

In those moments there would rise in her a low-violin sorrow. A hollowness of immeasurable weight. It would shudder through the transparent slice of the Ataro-that-was, and the cracked walls of the swimming pool would fuse and mend, and the dust and earth would blow along the floor of the deep end in silent storm-dance. She felt herself balanced on a dendrite blade, and that the world was beginning to smolder around the edges in colors of blood and honey.

It is a breathing, she thinks. A bellows-motion of loosed and gathered, loosed and gathered, world without end. And she makes her jaw firm, and she nods inwardly to all the other hollow-heavy Ataros in all the other moments that do and do not exist. She clasps her hands and breathes in a gathering.

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