By Angela Sharman

The demands of a perfection-starved society cling to me

like a plastic Walmart bag pulled taught,

smearing the eyeliner that once trapped my insecurities behind




into one wide-eyed look resembling

blatant panic.

I contemplate my pivotal state of transition between the sane and the ragged

until my eyes squeeze shut at the dreaded feeling

of something squirming

beneath the core of my facade.


Inside of me is a tiny clay figure,

just like Gumby,

only a little more deformed and a lot less colorful.

Poor, tormented Lumpy.


The stress tumbling down

from my scattered and heavy thoughts

has stirred him from his peaceful slumber.  My courage sinks with

the knot in my throat and I watch with growing unease as Lumpy

begins another stop-motion dance-

limping towards the faceless woman with a clipboard

who waits around every harshly lit corner.

Since Lumpy’s trembling creation, he has been drawn to her- the she-beast

who dangles tasks from her fingertips

and stores looks of disgust

beneath her manicured nails.


When the breathless clay figure again kneels before her

Clipboard Woman immediately begins to wave her arms

with a flailing dictate towards a graffiti-lined room.

A sculpting wheel with a raw glob of cracked clay

is there waiting for him.


Lumpy hobbles toward it, eager

to give Clipboard Woman a reason to check her next box.

He starts to spin the wheel, caressing the clay with the care and attention

a concerned father would offer to his sobbing daughter.

His slow and artful movements coax the broken clay into a coagulated pile.

But it is taking too long.


Clipboard Woman starts screaming.


Lumpy’s hands shake.  He pushes harder, his fingers

burning with the fury of red clay

ripping at their sockets.


The first pot breaks into three pieces.

He tries harder.  Lumpy’s fingers bleed together

with the darkening clay and become one with the pot,

forming four red lines around the center.  Confused,

he rips his hands away, staring in horror

at the stubs where his fingers were.


Clipboard Woman is still screaming.

Lumpy swallows, and tries to think.


In a daring act of self-preservation,

the little clay creature turns his back to the flailing arms and screaming mouth

and limps from the room, cradling his fingerless hands at his stomach.


In the dimly lit alley behind him, Lumpy finds a stick

with a loop of wire on the end, someone else’s discarded tool.

Without warning, he plunges the wire

into his chest, digging furiously at his soul.


A burlap sack appears beside him.

Lumpy laboriously places his precious heart into the sack,

smearing the gray with bloodied pieces of his hand.

He wraps a frayed rope around the opening

and lays the bag in a corner.


At this, he lowers his head ceremoniously and resigns himself

to a whispered prayer that God would watch over his gut-strewn core.

He hobbles back in the direction of Clipboard Woman’s frenzied shouts

with a soulless smile

plastered onto his face.


She is so furious that she is beyond words,

but hollow little Lumpy understands exactly

what he must do.


He sits obediently in front of the sculpting wheel

and reverently places his crusted scabs on the cold clay.

In a flurry of red and gray,

a twisted graffiti of mud and flesh splatters

onto the wall.  Clipboard Woman giggles

as Lumpy’s hands are ripped from his arms and added

to his quivering creation.

Lumpy struggles on.


In an alley not far away, his severed self

spasms and slowly slips into a dazed nightmare.


The cycle continues for days until each box has blood

caked over it in a wicked, elongated “V.”

Only then can Lumpy painstakingly stumble from the room

and make his way to his shadowed haven.


He unwinds the knot encasing his ransomed sanity

and cradles the dirty burlap sack with a sobbed prayer of relief.

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