Aflame! Aflame!

Caroljean Gavin

Kate Hungerford

Glass Wing


Greta circles the hothouse.

It calls to her. 

A nectar she smells but cannot see flirts its fragrance. Knows her name. 

She slips in.

The hothouse is aflame. Orange, pink, red flowers emerge from between fingers of leaves so green, so green.

The green is silent, almost still except for trembles of breath moving, crescendo-ing. 

Men with ties, pointing down.

Woman with shoe heels plunging in. 

The ground. 

Greta does not touch.

She does not reach down. 

Her husband said the long wooden crate was an opportunity. Such a rich man! What an impressive collection! Only one delicate specimen short of perfection! They couldn’t stand in his way! The rich man paid her husband enough for the house, enough for the car. 

Enough for Greta to become worthless. 

Almost invisible, but not weightless. 

Greta had never ridden a train before, vertical or horizontal. 

Bones knocked and rattled against knotted planks and nails. 

Her see-through bones.

Greta circles the hothouse in her see-through bones. 

She’s only arrived. 

The lid broke off. 

The hothouse was aflame. 

It drew her in. 

Aflame with color. 

Aflame with men. 

Aflame with women.

Aflame with spectators. 

Spectators with gloves for no touching. 

Spectators with champagne glasses for no frowning. 

Spectators with pocket-sheathed nets for the harvesting. 

The cold season up here is long. 

Greta’s crystal shoes. 

Hothouse flashing. 

Greta’s layers of organza, spun and spun around her see-through, her see-through skin, her see through bones, her see-through hair falling to her see-through shoulders.

And walking toward her cupped in the rich man’s hand:

The nectar!

The poison!

Never in her life has she had such an appetite. 

She knows, and she hates herself, but she cannot stop it. 

The hothouse was aflame. Aflame. Aflame. 



Fire Wing


The sisters sponge Greta down. It is never easy steadying a woman such as this. Greta sees this thought in their tight lips. Greta sees the effort of judgment weighing the skin of their eyes. Gravity. Poor, wayward sinner. These sisters are more transparent than they imagine. Greta laughs and kicks off the muslin. Her belly is aflame! The wooden bed creaks. She grinds down into it from the hips. 

It was simply a fever she caught from the man, is what the sisters tell her. 

It was simply a retribution, this fever. If she did not repent, it would burn her down. But what should she expect, being this opulent, this obvious, this tempting? She never should have been so forward as to lap out of a stranger’s hand. 

The sisters did not see seven nets clatter. The sisters did not see the monarchs erupting from leaves as gentle green as spring, and the blazing swirl they ignited. The sisters did not hear the screams. The sisters did not see Greta rise and fly out an open window into the night. That impossible, panicked, miraculous act. The sisters did not feel the wind through their throats. The moon winking from its perch. All that open. All that air. Stars. An ember in her belly. It was only the dizziness that brought her down. 

When they unwrap the organza, the sisters see it. Greta sees it. The black and orange whirl in her belly. Aflame. Aflame. Greta places her hand over it, sees it still, and the scorching wings of it flutter up, nuzzle her through the skin. 

The sisters lay down their sponges, cross themselves, and leave the room.



Blood Wing


I have a little fire sitting on my belly, so I fly on my back, so I can hold my little fire and feed my little fire dead little sticks, and I can shelter my little fire from the blow of the wind, and I can shield my little fire from the wet of the sea, and I can keep my little fire from the dipping sappy branches of the trees. My little fire is my little fire, and I don’t want to spread it! Before Mary Something or Other steered me out of the convent with her crosses, she said, “You’re your own fever and we can’t cure it,” and I never, ever, never want to forget it. 

(One night an owl swoops over me, and get this, the owl comes over laughing asking me what I think I’m doing, so of course I tell the owl, it’s none of its damn business. I live in the sky now. It’s a free sky, isn’t it? And the owl is like, little girl I don’t know where this attitude is coming from but I’ve been watching you, and you’ve never done anything new, so I thought you should know, it’s the nectar, it’s because the man fed you, you are only what they feed you, and if you don’t get more of that nectar, the fire’s going to go out, and your new hot pink skin will fade back to the color of nothing. The good news is there’s a merchant ship right below you full of the shit. The bad news is you’ve got some tentacled competition. Oh, and look at you, feeling so cute!”)



Shadow Wing



She approaches. Like a comet. Aflame. The boatman wheels his craft to catch her. Everyone is hungry, the bat’s hungry, the ink monster’s hungry, the plants are hungry. The boat open its mouth, flicks its tongue of lava. She’s coming in hot. The boatman holds down his hat. What a delicate specimen of blazing perfection. His long coat catches a wave of her heat, lifts it up like a skirt. She could keep them all going. 



Greta’s arcing down toward the boat. It is such a wonder. Aflame and growing. Calliope music wheels off of it and spins into her mouth. The boatman is a magician, coordinating delightful sights, communicating with fantastic creatures. He steers by Ferris Wheel. He knows the secret of the orange nectar. Once Greta’s husband took her to the circus and tried to leave her there. She thought she loved him. She thought he was only joking. 



When will you touch down? Oh, when will you touch down? Will you let me guide you down? The boatman reaches a glove to the sky. 



Greta swoops, half blinking out, tries to sweep a plant up with her before anyone else takes her hand. 



Gold Wing 


Greta came away with the boatman’s glove in her hand and his goldfish woven into her hair. The goldfish whispered into her ear:

“I had no idea I could jump that high!”

“Did you really want to steal from a thief anyway?” 

“You’ll need to fly higher than that if you want to get away. He’s pretty fast, and he has long armed friends in his wake.”

“You are so hot. Do you mind sweeping down and dunking your head in the water? I need to catch my breath anyway.”

“Oh! You’re losing the color of your fire, if you take a quick lick of my scales, it should last until we get there.”

“Where? It’s a surprise.”

“Ha! Ha! That tickles!”

“No, it’s not far from here. Just follow the direction of my fin. You’ll see them.”

“You’ll know when you see them.”

“Past the palm trees and past that pinkest moon.”

“Keep following the clouds in the water.” 

“Those are my brothers and my sisters! And my cousins and my friends.”

“My mom never migrated back.”

“No, I’ve never been married.”

“You can drop me down anywhere!”

“Thank you!”

“Go to the grotto!”

“Oh! I know isn’t it beautiful?”

“Yes, that’s the surprise!”

“We’re actually called clear fish, you know. That’s our true name. When we hatch, no one can tell.”

“You don’t have to be scared. I’ll swim with you the rest of the way.”

“You can scrape it from the walls, or just put your mouth on it, suck the nectar right in.” 

“There you go, you just flared! You are so beautiful!”

“No. You don’t have to run anymore. Not if you don’t want to. You can stay here. Greta’s Grotto!” 

“Well, he won’t look straight through you now!”



Light Wing


Greta! Oh Greta! That is her name. She says it over and over again! Greta! And she strings her wings along the walls and swings against the golden, clinging rings of nectar, flings her sling, against the winking blings of nectar, and on every upswing, she sings Greta! Greta! 

The fire from her belly has flushed her and blushed her, has blazed her and glazed her and crazed her and raised her and amazed her. The golden fish come, and they praise her…Greta! She is as light as flight, as light as bright, as light as a kite, as light as light! And the golden fish nibble at her toes. Oh, how they glow! And this fire, this fire has always been with her…


She dangles the boatman’s glove…

Like a shadow…

The golden fish beg her to just let it go…


Greta is aflame!

Greta. Daughter. Wife. Curiosity. Whore. Distressed Damsel. Meal Ticket. Caretaker. 

The golden fish beg her to just let it go…

She dangles the boatman’s glove…

She’s never been the driver…

Her mother, husband, captors, detractors, kidnappers, all called her Greta. 

The golden fish beg her to just let it go…

They call her Greta…

“Precious jewel.” 

“Creature of light.” 


“Greta Oto – the glass wing butterfly”

She dangles the boatman’s glove…

The golden fish beg her to just let it go…

She folds her purple-black wings over her body, drops to the soil below.





Greta circles the cave. 

Shrouded in her wings.

She calls to herself.  

She knew her when she was small, but threw her away, before anyone else could see. 



She slips in. 

The volcano erupts, just as she remembers, wakes up. 

“The one who emerges.”

She flies with the lava. 


“The one without shame.”

Trees underneath bow to the heat, green, almost still except for the trembles. 

The golden fish in the sea wail, “It was too good to be true!”

Greta’s never been the driver, and Greta’s never done anything new.

She unhitches her wings. 

She reaches down for the ground. 

She never even wanted a husband. 

That cold bowl of oatmeal

Never wanted to be a treasure. 

Only loved. Feverishly loved. 

The woman with her shoe heels plunging in. 

In the woman’s eyes, monarchs, queens, dancing. 

Greta knew, and she hated herself, and she tried to stop it.  

The lid breaks off.

Greta walks. 

Her husband said the long wooden crate was an opportunity. 

She’d never ridden a woman before, vertical, or horizontal. 

Never in her life has she had such an appetite. 

The hothouse was aflame. 

Greta’s layers of organza, spin, and spin around her see-through, her see-through skin, her see through bones, her see-through hair falling to her see-through shoulders.

Almost invisible, but not weightless.

Her belly flame, a self-sustaining, searing, sparkle.  

She walks on.

Walks on rocks.

Trips on trunks.

There are not trails

Her bones rattle and knock.

Her see-through bones.

There will be another hothouse. 


The cold season up here is long. 

She’s only arrived. 



Caroljean Gavin

Caroljean Gavin’s work has appeared in places such as Milk Candy Review, Fractured Lit, New World Writing, Best Small Fictions, and X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine. She’s the author of Shards of a Stained-Glass Moving Picture Fairytale (Selcouth Station Press) and the editor of What I Thought of Ain’t Funny, an anthology of short fiction based on the jokes of Mitch Hedberg (Malarkey Books).

Kate Hungerford

Kate Hungerford’s paintings explore the environment, both internal and external. Series are often influenced by her Buddhist practice, poetry, music or politics. The Brazil series appeared after travels to the Pantanal and Bahia. Recent work explores color forces that move across wide expanses or sink mysteriously into pools of dark quiet. These new abstract colorist works describe sound, wind, gravity, and the pulsating of life itself.