- This is my sense of self-worth: A dog in the wintertime, skinny, sitting squat on the side of a country road. A dog, alone, cold, still and wide-eyed as the snow comes down.
- This is my pride: An arrow, honed for hunting. An arrow, sharp, laying underneath the last layer of skin, straight, alert, at the juncture where shoulder meets heart. A hierarchy of needs, and desire is in a crown.
- This is my capacity for love: A stone, small, flat, entirely colorless but infinitely textured. Just touch alone, the weight and temperature of it in the valley of your hand, is enough. No eyes or mouth, no music; the line of your fingers against a stone in the dark of a windowless room.
- This is my self-awareness: A morning like a mirror, clear, over the fields of a careful farmer’s sunflowers. The view from the school bus, head heavy with the truth that is all pain.
- This is my weakness: A frame of wood made to look like gold, and a series of ill-fitting paintings of paradise.
- This is my courage: A wind, a coat, butter cake wrapped in tinfoil. A painting of paradise.
- This is my ability to adapt: An opening to the ocean, occasional rain stippling the surface, and underneath a dove-gray blue whale, mid-song.
- This is my ability to trust:
- This is my sense of self-hatred: Hitting the tar road at seventy miles per hour, hands on the wheel like guns pointed at dogs; hitting the water at eighty miles per hour. Crawling up the rocks, driving home. Getting up in the morning. Doing it again, again, again.
ARIES, TURN FERAL: You’ll be more domestic animal than humanoid; oily blood and salt fish will be more yours than maple sugar and liquid sunsets. You don’t just break hearts, you eat them. Everyone likes a little tenderness, yes? But they think love, and you’re thinking chewable.
TAURUS, BLEED OUT: That blue-black night when you accidentally drop your briefcase on the subway floor not once but twice, don’t you dare take the short-cut through the yellow wheat fields home. Those Capricorn boys don’t care for you, they will cut your hair with butterfly knives and sell your clothes to housewives.
GEMINI, SKIP TOWN: There’s a spot behind the burger joint, you know which one. When your Pisces mother kicks you out, walk the two blocks there and feel the onion-sweet, beef-thick air in the dark until it snags underneath you; pull, pull. The fabric of this dimension will dissolve at the acid of your palm and perseverance, creating a hole two feet across, into a new universe. It’s just big enough you to jump in headfirst. No, I can’t tell you if you’ll be any happier, should you go.
CANCER, ACCEPT IT: You’ve got no beauty, but you will be lucky. You ugliest, worthiest of queens: rise.
LEO, MAKE LOVE: If you’re going to kiss him, do it at the pulse point, the throat, first like a wolf then like a married man, and keep at it until he forgets his mama’s name. Good. Get a tattoo afterwards (might I suggest a lion? No? Too obvious? A dragon, then.) If you’re out looking for a quickie, consider picking up an Aries. They’re biters, though; beware.
VIRGO, DON’T GO SLOW: On the day the city floods, hike up your skirts and run. You can’t cheat Death, but you can beat him up, if you find and catch him unguarded (his favorite victim, a sweet-tempered, curly-haired Aquarius, was taken during a storm; so now Death sleeps during rain. All villains have something they’d rather never remember.)
LIBRA, WANT IT: But don’t say it, don’t touch it, not yet. Some things must be courted before they are killed. Wait. Soon you will sink your hands in, run your tongue through. A warning: wanting is a kind of cheating, sometimes, and even if you get away with it, that won’t make it worthwhile.
SCORPIO, SPIT: Onto the sidewalk, and then into the fire, before you start up your brew. Eye of newt is a little old-fashioned, how about the heart of a Taurus?
SAGITTARIUS, WRITE: Last month’s paycheck was cut in half, and your blouse will disappear from the laundromat (Leo looks better in it. Sorry.) It’ll be alright. Sit at your kitchen table, half-naked, and finish your stories.
CAPRICORN, BE CRUEL: You are hungry. So feed.
AQUARIUS, COME HOME: Count your wounds and gather your things. You gave it your best shot, but it’s time to call it a day. Don’t fall asleep on the subway; don’t run the risk of a Libra’s love. Your body is demonic, but never rotting; can the same be said of the side of the angels? Those bastards are falling, every which way.
PISCES, IT’S OKAY TO CRY: You’re still here, aren’t you? Yes. Yes. Yes, you are. Say it with me, and then repeat it: yes, I am.
Aquiline nose inherited from somewhere sunny, dark sheep-like eyes inherited from somewhere thoughtful. A greenhorn, a white-shirt-collar. A “dale de comer” girl, feed her cereal, roll her name around like something vulgar. When done up nicely, something worth keeping.
“This is an Ivory Tower exercise,” she says, tying a bow with the drawstrings of his pants. He’s not sure what she’s referring to, or even what she means exactly. Guess that English degree was useless after all, he thinks, which is perhaps not the correct post-coital sentiment.
When she comes home, Etta’s mother spends five minutes organizing the shoes in the closet according to owner and frequency of use. She watches Channel Five news on the sofa for half an hour, drinking a quarter gallon of water with her 200 milligrams of bifidus bacteria. As soon as the infomercials come on, she yells at Etta to come pick up her backpack from the coffee table. Etta straightens the ribbon in her yellow bun before coming to her mother. The living room is dark, illuminated by the television screen and its multiple reflections on the glass doors that lead to the balcony. Etta feels like she’s in a hall of mirrors.