“Up to Our Ankles”


Vanessa Reed


It was hot. 

She was wet. 

Everything was wet. 

Huddling harder into herself, 

Soggy chest pressing against hard bone.

It never stopped raining anymore. 

“This is as bad as it gets” 

The voice of her father. 

It was a year now. 

An orphan to The Storms. 

A lot of people died. 

Trying not to think about it. 

All she thought was how wet she was. 

Seemed like it’s always been this way. 

In a world where the sky won’t stop.

Just adapt. 

“Adapt or die:” 

The need for fire.

But fire is hard when everything is wet. 

No shelter. 

The roof is gone so the rain gets in anyway. 

A constant mist except when it rained even harder, 

Pelting your jacket like rocks, 

As if it was mad at you somehow.

Voices rose up all around her.

Most of the planet dead. 

Swirling energies in a dark place. 

Hard to exhale. 

All that was left was the living and the dead and the living outnumbered.

Looking up at the shredded ceiling, 

She lets the mist hit her face, 

Almost in defiance. 

When you’re stuck living with something you hate, 

You find a way to love it.

Part of what she carried.

Too wet to be of any use.

Gathering it up anyway,

Carrying it all in her arms. 

Yellow rain slicker coming apart at the hood;

The need for stitches.

But all the wood too wet to burn now. 

The planet found a way.

Protecting itself even from us. 

The hostility of the constant rain.

Trying to stop the onslaught. 

This new world. 

The ice storms were worse; 

Frozen water falling like daggers from the sky. 

So deliberate. 

The Storms wouldn’t stop; 

The water just kept coming.

Just a kid when it started.

No one knew why.

The doctors got sick.

The nurses stopped showing up. 

Then everybody just stopped showing up everywhere. 

It used to be just hurricane season. 

Each year it was worse and worse. 

Then it was just all the time. 

The weather had shifted. 

No one knew why. 

The Storms became a cancer.

The skies unleashed itself. 

And now the world was over; 

Water kills.

You have to watch 

Or the broken road 

Will trip you up; 

You’ll pitch forward and fall.

Sagging buildings, 

Crumbled walls. 

Another sad little strip of town. 

And now a final dream in the dark forest. 

The air thick and heavy. 

Trying to move like being underwater. 

A strange voice in the wind. 

It called to her. 

She walked barefoot, 

The ground beneath her covered with dead butterflies, 

All wasted radiance beneath her feet. 

They crunched as she walked. 

A voice called again.

The smell of deep, rich soil. 

A woman with eyes made of black oil grease, 

Covered in dirt, 

Packed onto her body,

Made of solid earth. 

Long hair dark as a raven, 

Teeth of pearl. 

Weeping, weeping,

Her tears making oil streaks down her cheeks. 

And then the woman with oil for eyes pointed her long arm up toward the skies, 

And then,

All at once, 

The skies fell down on them both.



(Previously published on A Million And One Magazine)



Vanessa Reed


Don’t court the monster.

Even though it wants you.

Don’t let it in.

Let’s play pretend.

It’s a creature:

Fallen, but majestic,

Almost regal;

Like a unicorn.

It’s approach

Makes you feel

Like you are chosen

And special;

Worthy of the Ancients.

You want to let it in;

Tame it,

Make it your pet.

It’s wicked nature:

An impossible dream.

Don’t say the name

Or look at it too long.

Don’t let it in;

Hard to leave once it’s in.

You’ll feel it 

Like an inserted needle.

It doesn’t hurt,

But it’ll feel like 

A small weight ,

A split shot sinker,

Placed just inside 

The center of your chest;

An alien that doesn’t belong.

Hiding so it won’t be found.

You can’t obliterate 

What you don’t know is there.

Can’t kill a cancer that grows out of sight.

Perhaps it's much like a mosquito bite:

You never saw how it got in,

But the sore is there.




It waits beneath your tongue,

Or behind the eyes.

You bring it with you


It is with you

Even now,

You don’t know,

But it has you.

Lashing out at others:

Saying things you never thought you could,

Doing things you never thought you’d do.

Breaking your life,

Watching you crack,

Using you to harm others.

Holding you captive

Inside yourself.

You’ll watch from within:

A view you can’t see.


It flashes pictures

In your mind:

Terrible pictures,

Not from you,

Not your thoughts.

An attachment that pretends to be a bond.

It is lonelier







Or ever will be.

A loss

Almost incalculable:

Losing the Divine,

Being deceived,

Star of the Morning;

Guilty of war crimes,

The monster within them.

A failed revolt.

A soured race.

A decrepit space.

A cause abandoned.

And then,

An insatiable craving for vengeance.

Crawling, mauled

And ripped open,

Staggering toward us,

Their intended targets.

Intended for us to suffer:

Drive the nails

Into us instead.

To feel,

To feed,

To fuel.

What was once lost

Is now found.

Within us

They don’t claw out.

Using our vessel

Like a mask instead.

Wanting us to turn

Like it was an art-form.

Turn us away,

A beckoning light,

A feeling to fight.

So the children rise;

Not weak sucklings,

But fierce assailants,

Fearless hearts,

Truth on their tongues.

A resistance begins:

An ember kindled,

A fire begun.

Hoist the sword,

Put on the armor.

War is hell.

Hell is war.

War isn’t over;

Never will be over.

Not until

Chains are broken,

Prisoners are freed.

Turning back

From the path

We have chosen.

Not too late;

Never too late.

Always hope.

Always fight.


It is already written.