skin elegy / by : Lance Olsen

skin elegy

Lance Olsen

Edited by : Giorgia Pavlidou and Mohsen Elbelasy

But Dave are rapidly manying, and the manying unexpectedly comprehends, hanging there in dim nickel glow, that every laugh every human being has ever delivered is a warning sent back from the dead. 

That, every time we sneeze, it is just the departed speaking through us, checking in to see if we are still okay, still ready to stay alive a few more steps.

That every flake of skin we shed during sleep, or magnificent lovemaking, or a math class on quadratic equations, is really a very small prayer sent back to the expired saying: Just a moment. I’ll be with you shortly.

All in one burst, the manying comprehends these things and an endlessness more. That everyone’s entry into the dim nickel glow is a different story. One Dave chattering around us—his name is Mary—reports it was a backwards birth; another a wild flailing amid the sensation of choking; another a sliding on a lake of ice toward an oncoming freight train whose impact is a convulsion of silence. No matter how we arrive, all are convinced that in death we will remain terrified forever because none of us knows when everything will change, or if everything will change, or if everything will ever stop changing, even though that forever may last only the sliver of a second, because that sliver will be followed by one just like it, or, more terrifying still, not followed by one just like it. And one Dave—his name is Rebecca, then Robert, then Rhonda, then Ross, then Rylie—experiences that terror as red, while another as a ceaseless piercing scream, and yet another as a flannel coat exploding into flames around her as she strolls down an empty street in Denver late one night.

Lance Olsen is author of more than 25 books of and about innovative writing, including, most recently, the novel My Red Heaven (Dzanc, 2020) and Dreamlives of Debris (Dzanc, 2017). A Guggenheim, Berlin Prize, D.A.A.D. Artist-in-Berlin Residency, two-time N.E.A. Fellowship, and Pushcart Prize recipient, as well as a Fulbright Scholar, he teaches experimental narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah.

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