k a t i e    j e a n    s h i n k l e

Softer Still and Evermore Softer: an Essay of Discontinuation



Here are all of the addresses from my childhood

7901 Cook Street


and when I figure out this number I try other numbers, I memorize my grandfather's

4910 South Shore


I remember the telephone number I memorized before my own

I save it under granddaddy in every cell phone

You tell me that you moved so much as a child you never were able to make childhood friends,

you allude that you and your mother are in direct competition with each other

and in the disappearing do you remember the important numbers


I collect phone books from every single city or town I live in

as homage to the dying manuscript once so alive.

I pull open the one from my hometown, so small it must combine

itself with another town of numbers. It contains the number to the hardware store,

the only Chinese restaurant for thirty miles where the sesame chicken

is so sweet you have to eat it with a glass of milk, a Radio Shack.

I have dreams of the business district in my hometown: five businesses,

one library branch, a post office, things I am forgetting, the police station underneath

the library branch, a two-for-one special. I remember getting pulled over in my

junior year of high school with a quarter ounce of weed in my pocket

and not getting in trouble somehow. Now there are medical marijuana laws,

decriminalization, who cares about weed anymore.

There was a lady found dead in a park in a town adjacent to where

I should have gotten in trouble, disappeared.


This number and address tattooed onto my leg, into my brain.

I forget I have tattoos, and in the shower I am startled,

a reminder of this one other place I have been, where I come from.

I have friends I see a few times a year

who always have new tattoos from different places like postcards,

here is Palm Springs, here is Brooklyn the cold winter they were in love,

sharing a 250 square foot space, doing hard drugs.

When I travel to see you, let's get tattoos of place. And we do.


A hospital ward, maternity. How many numbers.

All of the dead children, more so the dead children of place, how children

disappear so quickly. The setting on the cell phone that says

do you want to disable the government from sending you amber alerts?, from alerting you

to all the children who are disappearing. One little girl kidnapped by her best friendís

father and left for dead in the woods of a county on the other side of the state.

One fetus dead inside the womb, no heartbeat, no heartbeat. For every number,

another that explains relationships. How to connect and be connected.

Visiting a grave in the Midwest, going back for the funeral, an absence all along,

Please come home, your family says to you, let us mourn this together, grieve this loss.


When the body comes forth in a room of silence.

Do you want to hold her before we take her away?


This winter, record snowfall in my home state and I watch it far away in another state

where the snowiest month is March.

There is a famous actor who dies from a heroin overdose and another and another,

I can't understand sometimes

the kind of magic we lose.

A snowfall so delicate as if it is coming from the ground up, what kind of static,

as multi-colored and rainbow-fleshed as the screen can be in the middle of the night.


I am asked about my cable package, is that

what you do instead of going out, and I say no,

I say both, I say the answer is always

money, isn't it? Quantify these numbers.

You say, if that is what it is really about.

As if it is ever about anything else.


In numerical order, no, I cannot say for sure about the spring, weather and the absence

of you and your absence in the world.

Here is the address of the umbilical cord.

When the umbilical cord is cut, is it still.


KATIE JEAN SHINKLE is the author of one novel, Our Prayers After the Fire, forthcoming from Blue Square Press, and four chapbooks, most recently Baby-Doll Under Ice (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2014). Other work be found in TYPO, Barrow Street, BLOOM, FLAUNT Magazine and elsewhere. She is the Associate Editor of Denver Quarterly.

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