photograph courtesy of Raphaela Linders


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.

he is big / forearms of hawser-muscle / veins
raised underskin-blue / silver eyes watching
screams stream through the air like confetti / women
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.

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.

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.

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.

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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