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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 13: May 2022
Cheribun Sequence: 709 words
+ Author’s Note: 97 words
By Daryl Scroggins

Memento Mori


At the estate sale my sister, two years older than me at ten, plucked a red wig from a glass skull and put it on. Then she clutched a purse to her front by its long leather handles, and raised her nose in the air in sudden disdain for present company. We laughed. But through the tall rectangle of a doorway in the old house, a lady seated at the money-box table spoke to Mama as she looked through kitchen wares. Mama gave us a look that threatened a report to Daddy. And for the remainder of our time there we were church mice, hoping she would forget our play.

Only when we were leaving did my sister let a giggle slip, when I stood before a pile of unfinished knitting—the needles still crossed there—and was afraid.

In black and white 

Jonathan Winters 
on late night TV 

finds in offered props 
a voice and face 
already there. 


Soon after my college years, my father asked after my belief in an afterlife. He had rarely been so direct as to what my own views were. I imagine he was fearing for my soul, given the corrupting influence of the American education system. So when he questioned me I could see, flickering behind his face, his own answer to what I had not yet said, at the ready. “I think it would have to be selfless,” I said. “One’s love added to the force of love in the universe. I think at best it would be a soft last moment that lingers into atoms. Like, say—you have a chance to give your life to save a small child from being killed by a speeding car, and you act without hesitation, and your last fleeting thought would be a gladness that you had succeeded. That your life had helped.” And at last, my father’s turn to speak had arrived. “Well I believe in the survival of the personality,” he said. “What would be the point of an afterlife if I didn’t know myself?”

My father’s long appraising 

stare that summer day 
when I brought a hand trowel 

instead of 
the spade 
he had requested. 


On her last day, in her bed, Mama reached into the pocket of the apron she wasn’t wearing and took something from it. She reached out, found my arm, and followed it down to my hand. Then she pressed her gift into my palm, closing my fingers around it so it would not be lost.

My first memory 
I clutch crib slats and see 
blank afternoon sky at window’s top 

above a crowding hedge. No words 
to settle a world, but a thought—

blue wants to lift me out. 


I had thought I would feel fear there, on a table with anesthesia about to be administered. Fear that the quick fade to black might be my last view of anything. But as hidden figures worked around me, it was gratitude I felt. A deep welling up of it that left me feeling only a sense of great good luck. A bounty found in the knowledge that I have been loved. That I am loved.

Ten hours passed that were a moment for me. “When will the surgery start?” I asked in the recovery room. My first words there. And a nurse, pulling taped things from my body, laughed.

Which books to take 
on a six-week stay 
away for radiation? 

Some old favorite, 
or lines new to me? 

My photo catalog of snow crystals. 


I dig more slowly today, careful of my back. The odor of rich loam rises to me as I turn soil. Resting then in garden shade I see an ant heading a line of ants, and it carries a tiny skull. A gecko’s, most likely. Thin bone translucent. The ants don’t see me, but the gecko’s eye sockets do. A train of loot undulates behind. Petals and torn leaves. Bits of gold vermiculite. I imagine the sound of a tambourine. The lizard is now a longer dragon than it ever dreamed of being, headed down a hole to dark roads under other trees.


enter Hamlet stage left 
dramatic pause. . .

held so long 
the director delivers 
a fit of signals  




Author’s Note:

What I like most about [cheribun] so far is that the micro poem provides a chance to make a play within a play, since the poem part is more amenable to narrative to some extent, than the haiku would be in a haibun. I like that little reflexive window the poem can make. And since I’m big on analogies, the cheribun form makes me think of the rock hound’s practice of striking a chip off a rough agate, say, and seeing then the color in the interior that shows what the rock is made of.

Daryl Scroggins
Issue 13, May 2022

has taught creative writing and literature at The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of North Texas, and the Writer’s Garret, in Dallas. He now lives in Marfa, Texas. He is the author of This Is Not the Way We Came In, a collection of flash fiction and a flash novel (Ravenna Press), Winter Investments: Stories (Trilobite Press), and Prairie Shapes: A Flash Novel (winner of the 2004 Robert J. DeMott Prose Contest). His poems, short stories, and creative nonfictions have appeared in magazines and anthologies across the country, including Blink Ink, Cutbank, Eastern Iowa Review, New Flash Fiction Review, Star 82 Review, and Third Wednesday, among others.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond
Spring, microfiction by Daryl Scroggins in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 12, March 2022)

Writer Boy, microfiction by Daryl Scroggins in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 4, July 2020); nominated by MacQ for Best Microfiction 2021

Face of the Deep, ekphrastic prose poem in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 3, May 2020)

Field Trips, flash fiction in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019)

New to School, microfiction in Eclectica (Jan/Feb 2018)

Two Fictions: “Almost Baptized” and “Against the Current” in New Flash Fiction Review (Issue 10, January 2018)

Eight Stories: A Mini-Chapbook at Web del Sol

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