The Gravity of Giants

The Gravity of Giants

Amanda Chiado

I built a casket out of cigar boxes. My neighbors stared as I brought in towers of boxes. They whispered to each other about my oddness and my half-baked eyes. It wasn’t my fault; the grief in me was bougainvillea, thorn-pretty, creeping. I keep repeating those little words, “Cigar smoking can cause birth defects, lung cancer, and it will, be assured, cause worlds to collapse. A death box a dollar at a time.”

I was hooked by the sweet-hot smoke that weighed down everything.  

Roll, snip, sniff, light, puff, lick, puff, smoke, burn.

“Mia, that is part of your father,” my mother would say, “but it’s not everything.” She’d visit with me in my little apartment at the edge of the city where civilization started to blur. My mother always made soup. She, too, was a warm slop of mush, made up of a collection of meaningful tidbits, her dog a yapping mirror at her feet. 

I was hooked by the sweet-hot smoke that weighed down everything. 

I didn’t want anyone coming in, but it was my mother. If I allowed anyone, it would be her. She believed in angels and psychics and the thin wiggly line between here and the what-after. No one else needed to see what I’d built. Input was irrelevant and unnecessary. My cigar casket was heavy. It had its own knowledge, and it was a solution to a problem with its own impetus. It was a solution.

“Darling, you are starting to smell like bourbon-soaked tobacco.” My mother thought about how sick people smell, their bodies leaking the caramel scent of cancer or sourdough lupus. She crinkled her nose and waved her hands in remembered irritation.

I liked to imagine each cigar as a life: a series of memories, a succession of breaths, a chain of small bits of life. There were moments in those boxes, and I could feel them, keep them if I used the boxes and made them into something else. Exhalations and gratitudes.

Before she’d go to sleep at night she would rehearse the scene, the ritual that brought calm to her heart. It would be a traveling island of soil, full of sweet-smelling roses, glowing marigolds, kissy tulips, and soft daisies. It was an act of forgiveness. When she was finished hammering and gluing, she planned to take it to the river.

“My dad speaks in flowers,” I’d told the priest at confession. His tongue is the snap dragon, and his words are petals. You, you reading, you see my pretty! It is attached to a root that is attached to the darkness, a dark that holds all things dead and decaying. My father spoke in flowers—poisonous Azalea tongues. Do you hear hell in that? Azalea.

The boat-coffin of flowers was ready to send away, along with my father’s ashes. I ate just a bit of them one night out on the porch, looking back from the edge of the city. I placed a pinch of them on my tongue, and there was that deserted, small taste of eating sand at the beach. The sweetness of ashes comes when you swallow them.

The sweetness of ashes comes when you swallow them.

I wanted to push the boat out from the bank of Thoughtful Frogs, with my neighbor’s help. He was a widower. “This is a real beautiful way to say good-bye,” he would have said. “I wish I had thought of this.” He would have crossed himself like a good Catholic as we watched it float like smoke on the water, all the flowers planted in its body, happily floating among the whispers of the river.

A river is a haunted thing when frogs speak in tongues. Instead, there were boys. Instead, there was fire. Instead, there was ash.

“That’s the neighbor who is building a coffin,” one boy told another in my apartment’s parking lot.

“Yeah,” the other boy said. “Sure, a coffin.” He grabbed a bottle rocket from the boy’s hand. “I’m shooting this one,” he said.

He lit it and stood there like a war hero, waiting for it to ignite. And it did, shooting like a wishing star, right through my window, into the coffin, where a fire spiraled and grew. I punched at the quick heat over and over again with all of the fists I’d kept quiet. I slammed my balled up hands into the spreading flames that quickly ascended and cried and hissed and melted and consumed and swallowed. The fire raged against me with the sweetness of good-bye kisses. It swelled up like grief. I was out of breath. The smoke poured out of my little front window—a giant was puffing himself into oblivion.

Amanda Chiado's surrealist bio would host enormous tarantulas that would stand on their hind legs in elegance while clapping their front legs for you in regard. In this world, Amanda's poems would magically appear on your skin acquainting you with a strangeness that you always sought to understand. Everything is going line up here, and you don't have to worry about being bitten.

Illustration by Meghan Murphy.

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