This is the spell to hold him off.
Coffin nails, a candle, a mason jar
filled with cool water, a photograph
bent. Hold a pendulum over the face
counterclockwise. In the city everything
is so unbearably close, he and I so unbearably
close that every beard on the subway makes me
shake, the kind of shaking that comes with the halt
shift forward, buck back, the train frozen in time.
He was handsome but his fingernails were filthy;
this is all I can remember.

He used to watch me clean my nails, the blade
of the pocketknife slicing gently sideways,
gathering soot, the sharp point scraping
beneath each crescent. It should have hurt.
I always keep them trimmed, obsessive. I chew
them on the train when I miss a stop and get off
at his, automatic. I painted them red once,
a bloody slutty scarlet that was almost
the color of the red line, not home. I lost a nail
and kept it, an idol, a bruised artifact in a jar.
The jar’s reflection; red coffin nails trace his back
again and again until what is left is a trickle of blood
and the candles have all burned themselves out.




Syd Shaw is a senior, double majoring in Creative Writing and Journalism. Syd is from Sylmar, CA. Their passions include long distance running, 80s pop music, and witchcraft.