Alchemy & Jackknife

by Len Kuntz 



You are turning inside me,
coiling and unfurling
the way a fetus might
if it was wearing razors.
A few more weeks of this and I’ll have it mastered.
I’m only tin now,
but soon,
very soon,
I’ll make myself steel.




She was my brother’s girlfriend, but I couldn’t help myself.

That summer he worked on a fishing boat in Alaska, yet she came over nearly every day, no difference than if he’d been home.

We had a lake and she liked to tan on the dock by the water. She brought along her cassette player–Beastie Boys and Duran Duran. She slathered oil over her skin, the parts the bikini didn’t cover, and made the world smell like coconut.

I don’t know where she got all that marijuana, but she always had Ziploc bags stuffed with joints. I never took her up on her offers. Drugs seemed stupid, like dropping an anvil on your foot for fun.

One day she pointed out a soaring eagle and said that it meant good luck. When she was stoned, she came up with crazy stuff like that. She said she’d been reincarnated as a utensil and a Chihuahua. She said most people think God is a blind, blonde woman.

That day, she waved goodbye to the eagle, stood up and stripped off her swimsuit.

I started choking, my dumbfounded heart clogging every airway.

She said, “If you’re doing that so that I’ll give you mouth-to-mouth, think again.”

I watched the dive in slow motion. Her jackknife was skin and wind and floating hair.

“You coming in, or what?”

We swam and dog-paddled and splashed and laughed that day and all the others until Jared returned. While they kissed, I crouched in the kitchen corner at the butcher block. Seeing them felt like a blade cutting through my lungs, twisting, searching.

In the morning, I was up hours before dawn. We stored the beach towels in a shed by the dock and since she’d used every one of them at some point, I slashed them all, shredded them into confetti cloth. I used a jackknife.

I went out out of my way to pass her house. I figured her room was upstairs. I still had the knife. I thought about calling her down, but I didn’t.

It’s been two years since then. I’d left a note so they’d all know I hadn’t been abducted. And I call, but only a couple times, and I never say a word, just listen until they say my name through the receiver, asking if it’s me. I’m not sure if it’s shame or jealousy that has scoured me, but I’ve got time to figure it out. And if not, well, I still have this jackknife and I know where she lives.






Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural Washington State with rural sea creatures. His work appears in places like Mud Luscious, Juked, Elimae and also at


7 thoughts on “Alchemy & Jackknife

  1. David Ackley says:

    Both great: i’ll long retain the image of the razor-clad fetus.

  2. susan tepper says:

    The poem and story were a good fit. The work is so honest, all the time, and pulls no punches. Thanks for this great read, Len.

  3. Gill Hoffs says:

    The more of your work I read, the more you remind me of Ray Bradbury. Excellent!

  4. I love these two together, the get-wrenching poem first, and then this story which has all your spare elegance and shredded nuances. A stunning combination. Congratulations, Len and Nicolette.

  5. Michael Keenan says:

    “Her jackknife was skin and wind and floating hair.”

    Beautiful writing.

  6. Terrence Rusch says:

    Len, thanks for sharing “Jackknife” I love how elegant and succinct it is. Reading something like this inspires me to go back and develop some of my own ubber-short pieces. Here’s to the truncated written word, cheers!

  7. Holy crap. “Jackknife” has made me HUGE fan of Len Kunz. Wow.

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