Micro Prose: Four Pieces by Kristina Marie Darling

from Essays on Distance: A Book of Failures

This is Not Simple to Say

To the small flower contained in that metal box, we attributed an ability to bestow a temporary sense of relief. Which is to say, a thought held between the two of us became a garden, which required an enclosure. Still, to meet on the other side of the turned lock seemed a delicate proposition, despite the vastness of the surrounding countryside. And yet—

And yet. Who could resist glimpsing through a keyhole at the florid hills beyond. That theft, a leaf plucked from a sapling tree, marked the first night of a small voyage. We could do nothing but stare at the ship that bore our bodies, trace the shape of a distant coast with our fingertips.

Some roses, without sunlight, are known to bloom inward. All that time, the small flower contained within it:

a widening dark, a sorrow, a sea.

Along the shore, there was no one

What I meant to say is,

when the waves crashed, the violence of their movement startled at least one, if not the two of us

Roughly translated: I worry that one of us will disappear—


Notes Toward an Articulation of Sorrow

Though the little box was held together with nails, she senses that he has taken it apart

Roman a clef:

Orpheus {                                                         } Eurydice



She would later transpose her suspicions onto a landscape, that startling numbness in her hands made possible only by the difference in scale. Her body, sensing alarm, can only rush up and down its own narrow staircase

To ascend, she places the dead flower on a ledge

To descend, she places the dead flower on a ledge


Those Scarlet Engines of Speculation Lead Us into More Vigorous Wilds

She often imagines his melancholy as a film, a glamorous distance achieved by standing in the rafters and observing his movement between two rooms. The silence as he opens a hidden door implies the first of the storm sirens, a cold shore, and of course, the sea.

The cliffs that line the coast span twelve centuries, those dark stones reminding him of the windowless room he just left behind. Their unsightliness is its own truest representation, a faultless articulation of that sorrow. Which is to say: a thought held long enough in the mind becomes a pearl, eventually.

Now the music begins, a long shot of the harbor. The camera moving further and further below the water’s frozen surface. Year later, they will all realize there are not enough women on the crew to dress up the footage, to dub the man’s silence, to shape the narrative into a lovelier, more pleasing arc.


Forgive Me This Silence, My Dresses Are Burning

He pictured her sentimentality as a widening dusk situated between them, prompting one to toss old trinkets, postcards, and handwritten notes downward into the negative space that comprised the innermost rooms of her mind. From the ledge where he stood, the coordinates assigned to this darkening mass seemed always to be expanding, vanquishing shore after frozen shore. The speed with which it claimed the landscape reminded him to enact sincerity, to gather only the blue orchids, and to arrange for them to be delivered in the hands of a hired courier.

Which is to say: this is how the mouth becomes a friction, a lit match, and eventually, cinder. That hers was so bright. How it was the surrounding darkness that allowed him to see its shape more clearly, to locate that smallness amidst an endless pile of indistinct, now almost spectral, debris.


Kristina Marie Darling is the author of over twenty books of poetry, most recently Dark Horse (C&R Press, 2017). Her awards include two Yaddo residencies, a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship, an Edward F. Albee Foundation Fellowship, and multiple residencies at the American Academy in Rome, as well as grants from the Whiting Foundation and Harvard University’s Kittredge Fund. Her poems and essays appear in The Gettysburg Review, Agni, New American Writing, The Iowa Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She is Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Quarterly and Grants Specialist at Black Ocean.

Photo by John E. Branch Jr.

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