Jessica Reidy

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Jessica Reidy is a graduate of Hollins University's English and Creative Writing BA program. Her work has appeared in Cargoes and Amaze, and she won the Nancy Thorpe Poetry Prize. After racing around various parts of the world in between semesters, she finally lives in Ireland with her husband. Currently, the crushing global recession and her untimely immigration has rendered her unemployed and too poor to go back to school at the moment, so she is living the life of the starving artist in Europe.






One island grew nothing except one boat headed for the mainland, small but full of food and people with language. The priestess would negotiate for the island, a breadfruit, some rice in exchange for fish. Her body was copper, arms rowing water fresh with corruption. In the night, the boat was destroyed—mutiny. Marooned, she did what she could do for the stalks of humans left. Slowly, she changed and grew one spine, one plate. Her skin dried like hot mud on banana leaves, right into a tortoise. She swelled with the spirits of the drowned and wore sorrow like a headdress, adorned with fish bones.






Some closets are too big for one house



Elijah Slade put a gun in his mouth, looking at himself in the mirror in his rundown shack at the edge of the old junkyard. The attendant never even heard the shot, and old Elijah lay rotting in his hole for three weeks before anyone knew what happened. Dad said that it was all blood and brains splattering piles of child porn magazines, weaponry, and ladies’ underwear. I do not remember much about grandfather Slade. I remember pictures of him with great German Shepherds in leather frames, his eyes black in the photos seeming to contain the soil round deadly nightshade; I remember his nervous laugh when I was too near him; I remember his kitchen was very small and one window sucked a bit of sunlight inside.


I don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone

and I’ll never have another home of my own.

Salome, Ezra, Hanon, Bithia— I love you all,

ESTHER-ABEL-EZEKIEL you made my life worthwhile.

Hope your marriages are better than mine was— then they couldn’t be worse—


I was not allowed to see the suicide note until I was older, which I did not understand because I was mentioned in it by name. My mother thought that it would make me too sad at too early an age. Four is much too young for these things, she said. What made me sad though was not that he addressed me specifically, seeing Esther spelled out in all capital letters as though he was calling to me was not the thing. It was that he dotted each “i” in my Aunt Bithia’s name with careful hearts. That he drew another heart after the grandkid’s names. That it was all he could muster after everything and the sun had turned to give him some shade.






The Mysterious September 14th



“There is neither this world nor the world beyond nor happiness for the one who doubts.”

--The Bhagavad Gita



The day that the elephants padded into Cork city was remarkable and horrible. The two creatures gazed at the bustling of cars and people on wide St. Patrick’s Street, strolled by O’Brien’s and Spar Grocery, acting the part of pleased tourists. Most people thought that this was a stunt, a special treat from Fota Wildlife Park, or perhaps the grand opening of a new Debenham’s. After the elephants ambled toward the river Lee and closer and closer to an intersection for the bus and the Opera House, it dawned that that these giants were on their own time. People poured out of afternoon-lagging pubs and pumping shops to see the animals released here or escaped under the purpose of some mystery. Knowing no spells or conjurors, they did the only thing they could do. One woman called animal control. Her husband rang Fota. The elephants just began to take notice of the stream of smaller things nearby, thickening like a nosebleed. A seal barked from the river. Kieran crawled along the alley shortcut to the bus stop, shaking his head to and fro as if to the rhythmic swish of his track bottoms, thinking of holding up Bank of Ireland but could not remember exactly how such things were done. He had seen films before, but the pieces were bare for him. A jug of milk shattered, the pattern hidden by its white insides. His bowels had already turned on him and he had nothing to give withered arms. The bank loomed in sight—the sign incited him to enter because it was the color of midnight. A woman stood at the teller, talking quietly about her account. Her long blonde hair covered her face and he thought, blindness! He grabbed her arm and pulled her wallet toward him. Banging on the window. The dark-haired teller was banging on the window and yelling. He backed away slowly, dropping the woman’s arm. Everyone looked. Shuffling out he wondered, how was that wrong? Kieran met the street as it was rushing and shouting—maybe this is the river? No, too dry, less seals, and two elephants. One of the elephants stood at the bridge, trumpeting to his partner who stopped and backed down the street through reeds and tufts of people. Kieran ran knocking over those green stalks as he raced toward her. The police would be coming for him. If he could just get on that elephant he could ride off with his Brahmin bride, her hair falling in lotuses. He was only a block away. The elephant’s thick legs were obliging him and Parvati. He had seen them bend and bow at the circus when he was a boy. Somewhere a man retched as that one elephant continued its frightened stumble, alarmed to find Kieran on her leg biting—a dog dreaming. Within moments his body was unrecognizable.






Year of the Horse



Tatum burst from the sarcophagus as she opened her eyes. Wood shattered all around her—she knew the vines would kill her if she didn’t shake them all off. Water made the walls and her body would float away like a canoe. Her veins were the automatic killing response. What is the price of this? What is the price of this? they kept demanding. She would die over and over until these birds stopped screaming—enormous and white these birds, wet with walls and crowing—her arms riddled cross-word talons. Cold Arctic Circle. Her body was still hard from rigor mortis, but water seeping in orifices, sucking right up just all of it, slurping in. Saying, skkeeewsh! Keep your face in, they cackled, their caws shaking her cage bar bones. Bits of it were flying off, drowning in the wall. Keep… your… face… in. She would flap her wings if they weren’t too big for the room. Who could fly with sopping wet wings and this ocean inside. Where was all that wood?


A Sudden Excursion into the Well


There is only death at the bottom

of the sea. And the walnut’s

meat is only

a troupe of ants, exceptionally

still. Keep that mouth

closed. You’ll need it.


Dr. Eagan scratched his chin with the end of his biro. Tatum had taken leave. Her body locked and shaking at the same time, her tongue rigid, her eyes rolling. If anyone asked, what happened? it was always the same. The tranquilizer would unlock the muscles but after she rose from her artificial grave she would be no different, death does not transform all, he supposed. Keep your chin up, he murmured, sliding the needle into her backside. He could see the muscles in her back dancing and their taut little movements reminded him of his early days as a medical student. He needed to practice giving needles and worked for a short time with a family friend, an equine vet who didn’t mind a little help. One horse was so terrified of him that muscle spasms bent the thick horse needle at a 90 degree angle.