S.R. Aichinger

not anymore," he said against sueded first light

of what I didn't know was our last day

together; he said in the alley after he lit

our third fire of the night with dirt-spackled hands

& fingernails chewed too far; he said,  

peeling one thin strip of burgundy paint

from the brick back alley wall behind the gallery

where his photographs once hung; he said

nine hours—ten, tops—before he disappeared

from my side; he said eight months before

he OD’ed for the last time; he said

in the same soft timbre he would speak in

when he talked to the voice in his head

(he called it Rot, he told me once);

he said in a whisper I might have missed

if I hadn't looked at him when he said it

(& what if I ignored it?); he said the moment

he finally let go of that crinkled strip of paint

& watched it curl like birch bark as it fell;

he said, then drew one deep breath

that was really a sigh but I believed

for months he just needed that breath;

he sighed & said, “except I'm afraid

that means I'm living for nothing.”


S.R. Aichinger

We took off all our clothes one day,
             down by the dry river.

A year later I went back,
             took off my clothes & spread his ashes.

I’m tired of the told-you-so’s who say
             not to draw hearts in the flood plain.


Author's Note: This poem is loosely based on the sijo form.

S.R. Aichinger

A gas station bathroom
                         (If you have a building as a shelter, 
isn't in the cards today. 
            expect to stay inside for at least 24 hours.)
He finds instead a less secret sanctuary:
                                          If you're caught outside, 
this dumpster he crouches behind,
                        do not look at the flash or fireball—
cars passing 20 feet away. 
                                                        it can blind you. 
How the sun lights sparks in his eyes. 
             Lie flat on the ground & cover your head—
How metal maneuvers into vein. 
                             it could take 30 seconds or more
The depressed plunger. 
                                         for the shock wave to hit. 
The surge of peace it brings. 
                            Shower with lots of soap & water.
How he licks the puncture would clean. 
                     to remove radioactive contamination. 
How the taste of blood thrills him. 
                             Do not scrub or scratch the skin.


Author's Note: The italicized lines are adapted from the US Department of Homeland Security’s webpage for nuclear blast readiness.

SR Aichinger Pic.jpeg

S. R. Aichinger has an MFA in creative writing from Creighton University and lives in Omaha, NE. His work appears or is forthcoming in |tap| lit mag, Into the Void Magazine, Gyroscope Review, The Paragon Journal, Ghost City Review, and Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, among others.