Exquisite Duet (formerly Exquisite Quartet) is not so much a composition between two writers, but rather something created within the murky midlands of each author’s mind, yet set off by the same first sentence. Meg Tuite chooses two writers each month and gives them a first sentence to start with and a 250-word limit to finish an exquisitely mesmerizing story or poem. These duet-dueling writers will craft two completely different cosmos that have rotated, pitched, and blasted from the depths of their cerebral cortex to the twitching nerve endings of their digits onto dueling keyboards and separate screens until their sublime duet is prepared to see the light of an audience.
How White Women Live in South Carolina
by Cassie Premo Steele
Sunlight rusted through the hinges of existence
in the early spring after seasons of rain
on the morning we came from dreams of drowning.
You and I are still alive in the state where nine
were shot down four days after our wedding.
As women, we love in the aftermath of massacre.
Rust red brick dirt showed through white washed walls
in the early morning after months of silence
on the spring day we woke to hear poetry.
You and I are not yet deaf in the room where words
rise and split their heads against the concrete and we claim
the blood coming down like holy wine with our tongues.
The Tecolote’s Lair
by James Claffey
Sunlight rusted through the hinges of experience and landed on the burned-out shell of an old Morris LC-5 truck. Weeds push through the rusted holes in the bonnet and there is energy in the interstices that divide us, a crackling fizz like a microphone on an empty stage. To fall to earth and not implode, to disintegrate into a tangle of crazy limbs: arms, legs, hair, and eyes like the bark of an olive tree, the result a triumph. The rhythm of your hands tapping secrets percussive on my chest, how your fingers loop behind my neck, the scorched taste of turf on your whiskey breath, this uncertain sense that floods over me, the bare earth of a rural crossroads, tufts of long grass at the foot of the post, signs leading to unnamed towns and unknown meetings. In the dark light the tail of a passing creature slips into the undergrowth, hunting perhaps, or heading home to a lair. We take a few steps down the unknown road, your hair the color of burnt chestnuts, the fairytale trees crowding the air, and as our fingers touch the silent owl flies across our path, beating wings not even a whisper on night air.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Cassie Premo Steele, Ph.D., is the author of 13 books, including 4 books of poetry and 2 musical poetry albums. Her poetry has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, and her most recent book is Earth Joy Writing. Her website is http://www.cassiepremosteele.com
James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA. He is fiction editor at Literary Orphans, and the author of the short fiction collection Blood a Cold Blue. His work appears in the W.W. Norton Anthology Flash Fiction International and in Queen’s Ferry Press’s anthology Best Small Fictions of 2015.