Brian Oliu


It is always about water: water is not here. Watch out, there is water. There is nothing left but water. You invite me to the lake and I do not respond: I remember what happened there—dogs that were not mine paddle furiously against the sinking in order to keep their snouts above the break, their ears flat against the side of their slick heads. I am a dog: heat lashing out from my body, eyes made of black glass that makes you pretend you see something inside other than a reflection of you, a reflection of the reverse horizon—a negative, a face split in half. Show me a dog that understands love and I will call you a liar: these dogs are deaf, these dogs are simply swimming. Dogs die in hot cars. Dogs die in bathtubs, dogs die in open water. Dogs die first. Dogs are the last things remaining. I knew a dog that jumped off the cliffs and cracked its head open on a hidden rock. The dog floated, a mass of skin and hair, a dead-dog's float. I knew of a dog that froze to death. I knew of a dog that was bit by a snake, right in its cheek, the snake unwavering in its path down the river. I do not respond to your invitation. I do not respond to your invitation because if I did I would have to tell you about these things: eyes open, tongues out, wilting in the sun like a rotten peach. I do not tell you these things because you love dogs, how they crawl up on couches, how they lick hands, how they make you safe, how you sleep next to them, how you set everything out for them, one thing next to another, how you make sure they are properly fed, how they are drinking enough water. I do not tell you these things because of the way I say the word 'water', fast and muddled, like it is caught in my mouth, like there is no bite to it: water, water, water, watermelon, waterweight, waterfall, watermoccasin. I do not tell you these things because by telling you these stories and pretending these things happened to dogs I am not saving you from anything. I am not saving you of the fact that children die in hot cars, that children die in bathtubs, that when someone they love dies we tell them that they are sleeping, that they have passed out, blacked out. That when their dog dies we tell them that they have run away. That they still love us, but they are gone now. That when they die they are sleeping. That the water is too hot. That the water is too cold. That the water is just right and I am sorry I cannot come to the lake because the dog you love is not a dog and it is not a child and it is not me. That the bottom of my feet cannot touch the bottom. That I cannot afford to be taken by the ankles.



When I arrived, the music changed, and then it went silent—nothing of note except for the ringing in my ears, the residue of the clinking of a glass, the dropped phone call, the silence of a house in the morning. There is nothing romantic about the idea of final when final arrives like this: not with an arrow in the eye, not with a body losing grip on the floor and disappearing in the dark with a sparkle and a wink, not with a final blink after turning magenta, a red not found in nature, a red not found in your face, not even while choking, not even while gasping for breath. What you have imagined the final stage to be is not what it is—here is a list it is not. It is not surrounded by family and handwritten cards from friends, fresh flowers replacing dead flowers, no, never dead flowers, get them out of here, cast them into the street, put them in another room, the water will not save you. It is not done loudly, a body on fire, a spine crushed, speed meeting its opposite, the flavor of tin on the tongue, a lost tooth. It is not done by saving. It is not done by returning to saving, it is not done by holding, our bodies taken out of the world and back into our world, body slouched in a sofa, wrist cracked, skin on the thumb worn thin by being anyone except ourselves: a bird, a boy, a knight, a woman who can jump to the moon, a man in a car we will never see, a hand of a god we love. You asked for it, and here it is: you will fall asleep and you will not wake up. You will drown within yourself—what is in you will want to leave you through your mouth and up your throat, to crawl from under your tongue and onto your pillow and into the blades of the ceiling fan, repeating, repeating, repeating. You will not repeat anything, you will not be able to start over, start at the room where you arrived when the music changed, start at the room before the room where the music changed, where the music was the same as it ever was, the same melody that makes you think of oranges and small dogs and mistakes that you have made in the past: the girl you kissed you never should have kissed, the girl you kicked you never should have kicked, your mother, your father, the smoke in your lungs on nights where it was too loud to hear what you were saying, the awfulness in your chest. You have eaten all of the cake, you have eaten all of the jewels, you have put your hands to the sides of every princess, and this is where it ends, you can watch if you'd like, you can see the numbers count back from ten, to nine, to eight, to seven, like it is the celebration of a new year, like you will shove twelve grapes into your mouth and you will chew, breaking through the skin of the fruit to get to the sweetness, to choke them down, one for every new second, so you can make your first wish of many wishes, of finding the princess in the final room of the castle, for the health of your friends, to be happy, when you should have been wishing that you would not die. That your parents would not have to bury you after years of telling you that they would not be burying you, that you let it slip that you wish that they would burn your bones and let your ashes escape into the atmosphere, that your dust would become stars because you do not know how stars work, that you, stupidly, sloppily, could become something larger than yourself when you are dead. Anything but a hardened heart and the shortness of breath and the lament of a long walk wasted and a good life spoiled. Before you go to sleep, you swallow everything: more air, more water, things to make your blood do more work than expected, ways to stop you from thinking these thoughts, that your breaths would be deeper than the coldest lake, that all of the lights would stop spinning, that if you were given another chance you would write all of this down so you, you, whomever you is could follow it tirelessly, endlessly, that you could walk through this life as you walk through yours, that you could make it this far, that you could do it better. That by the time you get to the room where there is no music there would be no glass in your veins, that the color of your heart would not be the color of a king but the color of the final flag raised, the final, the final, the final. This is what you asked for, and this is what you will have: something larger than you, something rain soaked and wet like a new child, something evil, everything evil, something that can read your thoughts, something that is a thing inside a thing inside of a thing like a nesting doll, something that sprouts wings, something that was you once, smiling with a white tooth and a kind eye, something that is you but made of magic. Something magic.


These are the antepenultimate & penultimate pieces from Leave Luck To Heaven, a collection of lyric essays based off of 8-bit videogames. If all else fails, use fire.