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the Museum of Gray Matter consists entirely
of horsehair ladders & Malaysian body wave paneling,
herringbone floors with beaded parts rising
to kiss the meat of my heels. i tiptoe
through the domed exhibits, studying their dehydration.
blackened dandruff falls like ash, swivels, consecrates
the drylands in honor of a foreign god’s rite:
body, diffuse heat and coconut oil. wash out.
the sound my scalp makes when i comb my sideburns,
sometimes dismissive & others grieving.
the rearranging of dark & light into figures
we might know & call by name, rat-tails
weaving orange through a thicket of knotted curls,
appraising the graves where those headstones sit, parietal.
enclosed in this fist, a fallen braid unfurls
in bloom. would that it were a painting, a textbook
for a child who will one day bury itself.
something beautiful for it to make into science.
i passed Judas in one of the many halls,
watched him carry his father on his shoulders.
he told me this: “brown is the color
of my new flesh. brown is the color of all
self-respecting apostles.” & maybe

in a cleaner world i would have believed him,
but we stood like brothers on opposite sides
of the same fogged glass & spoke His name
in unitalicized whispers. he wanted to kill me,
& i did too, but i kept walking, am still walking.
in every doorway someone new is screaming
treat the church like your wife, so i repeat it
until i am martyred, writhing until riven,
until pulp, chewed & swallowed. my mirror-self
Lacans into a thousand tears; balder than
i was yesterday, & everyone knows it.
just look at yourself, he says. your hair is falling out.

Lyrik Courtney (ca. 1999) is a Floridian who sits at the cultural intersection of African-American and nonbinary gender. Their work has been featured in/is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Blueshift Journal, and Liminality Magazine, as well as other places, but you can always find them tweeting at @lyrik_c.
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11 Oct 2021

Back then, a nail to the neck meant a man wanted you as his wife.
By: Lisabelle Tay
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In this episode of the Strange Horizons fiction podcast, editor Kat Kourbeti presents Lisabelle Tay's "Surat Dari Hantu".
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