When the Smoke Clears.

Veeane Ayala


Veronica Lee was found dead among the arms of the beholder, blaring Queens’ “I Want to Break Free” from squeaky headphones that were losing their edge. Body curled in fetal position, buried under thickening vines. Eyes crusted from overdue tears. Despair spelled out in itty bitty pieces on her caramel skin. She was quiet, for once. She had finally run out of things to say. Rather, she was tired of having to say the same things over and over again. Before the words curdled like bad milk on her tongue, chalky…tasteless…without purpose.

Somewhere in the distance you can hear the sound of red pen scratching over the sentence fragments. Correcting her expressions and placing the imperfections in a superficial rubric designed to make her wrong.

Somewhere in the distance, a post on a godforsaken website tells her that poetry means nothing if not understood. Show don’t tell but tell and don’t show. The circle of nonsense. Veronica Lee finds that words were never truly meant to be understood, or else everyone would have long since spoken the same language. And the man made of light and Holy would not have divided the world in foreign lexicons and idioms. “I” would have been “we.”

Somewhere in the distance the monotonous voice speaks to go home.  Come to light and golden streets and diamond waters. Return to the word, the passion, the perfection of Christ. Somewhere, among the arms of the trees, Veronica Lee has never felt so lost in her own skin, so unfamiliar with her own name, so restricted by her own free will.

Veronica Lee feels, mourns, ultimately becomes…lost.


Before there was anything, there was Veronica Lee.

Before there was family, before there were enemies. Before there was love and the absence of. Before there was life and the presence of death. Before there was hopeful and hopeless, there was a small child with plump cheeks and fingers the size of thumbtacks tapping against incubator glass. Death had just brushed her once, twice even. A heartbeat too slow to monitor and too fast to catch. A mother fighting for every breath the same way the child was fighting to smile. Toothless, yet wonderful.

This was she, they claimed.

This was the one the prophets spoke of.

This was our queen.

Suddenly she decided that she would rather sell the crown for food and clothes than to wear it for a people that have no affection for her tactics. She lit her match.

And watched the empire they built around her expectation burn.

She never felt more alive.