telephone series, three.a, “Raga Agar Ear,” by Samantha Cohen

She has milkbowl hips and bones like harpoons. On a walk she’ll meander off to examine the manzanitas or bend suddenly to peer through someone’s mail slot. Her wandering isn’t cute or whimsical, though—her curiosity is guided like an animal’s is, you can tell, by some unnamable force in her underskin.


You’re the butch here, laconic and skinny. She’s in a stained tank top and cargo shorts but her skin is so pale and every facial expression she makes is new. Her hair is rumpled and you half expect her to start licking the dirt but her feralness always curbs and soon she’ll want frozen pizza and to talk about James Baldwin.


You’re twenty and hopeful and how could you not want to kiss her. At the mail slot she’s bent so that her body’s a ninety-degree thing and you wrap your arms at the crux of her waist and spin her. Her face when she’s spun looks loose-jawed, as though its lost control of its mouth, but you lean until the mouth’s on yours.  You’re the man here; she demurs. It’s LA and her smile feels like a spotlight.




Later her skin is even paler, moon pale, and her bones are still harpoons. Her hair is still unstraightened and hanging in her face and you pick her up outside the Little Caesar’s. She likes the five-dollar Hot-and-Readys, or at least is willing to put up with corn-infused fake cheese grease for the convenience, and she doesn’t have a car.


“Hey,” she says, reorienting her shape to fit in the passenger seat. She says this with more breath than voice. Laconic, to describe her now, would be an understatement, but only because you’ve grown accustomed to hyperbole over precision. In a dictionary-in-pictures, laconic would be her face.


Next to her, you’re a frizzy monster of a person, all color and excess. You can’t believe she loves you, so you give her rides or send what you hope are pithy text messages to invite affirmation.


You can’t stop talking. Gossip from your café job, manzanitas, queer writers, skin magnetism.


Lately, she’s in charge of the kissing. She puts her hand on your throat. Her tongue lunges.




The more she devours you, the fatter she grows. Her pants have stopped falling to the ground when she takes her belt off and her skin is almost golden-toned and she is talking, talking, talking. She wants to read you something out loud, she wants to look at trees, she wants Little Caesars. You are pale and tired and you want her just to want you so you lean over and kiss her and kiss her and already you can feel some color returning.



You go to work at your café job and defend Little Caesars Hot and Readys based on their convenience, cheapness, and size. You feel oddly drawn today to the orange juice machine; to watching the oranges spin in their carnival citrus wheel until they’re gutted and squashed. You don’t know who you are in the world anymore. Your body feels made of corn-infused cheese-food. You look down and find yourself in cargo shorts.


At night you drive to her house. You’re tired but she’s texted. When you arrive she’s a grownup in pants that fit and a button-down. Her hair is blow-dried and she grabs you by the fraying neck of your t-shirt and presses her mouth into yours. You unbutton her buttons as quickly as you can: you hate this grown-up shit, you want to uncivilize her.




You email her about how you are afraid of de-extinction. You email her about your process of deciding which kind of apple is the best apple. You email her to ask her to pick up fresh packs of tank tops. You email her about your realization that you prefer fonts to have serifs. She is at work but she sends one-sentence responses to each of your emails that show she has considered them carefully. Fuji, one says, in footed letters.




Now you’re the grown-up and she’s wearing too-big boxer briefs and nothing else. She’s lying on the bed with her head under a sheet. You come home in pleated trousers and set down your briefcase. You unbuckle your belt and lay it across the nightstand. You can tell she hasn’t read or even watched anything today except maybe blogs by other women who stay home all day, too, on the closed laptop that’s next to the sheeted protrusion of her hip.  It’s okay; one day she’ll start working again and maybe you’ll be the one to do this. At least I’ll read all day, you think, the classics, you think. At least I’ll think about dinner. But you take the sheet off her head and see this mouth, which is your favorite mouth, this mouth that loses control of itself when its emotions are strong, this mouth that wobbles, and you whisper, “I’ll make us frozen pizza. We even have olives from the Whole Foods olive bar.” Her mouth opens a little in what isn’t quite a smile but which you know means she’s happy, and her neck arches as if pulled by a puppet string or a magnet and you lean over and kiss her and kiss her.


Samantha Cohen will say things like, “I am dark and watery” while curled on the couch and drinking wine from a goblet, smiling coquettishly. Other writing of hers is in Joyland, Gulf Coast, Black Clock, Pank, and RECAPS & a chapbook of hers is coming out next month on Birds of Lace. She lives in LA with cats.

Translated from : Travis Diehl’s “untitled”

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