Exquisite Corpse of the Night Woman

The Lunar Cycle Painting by Georgina Heffernan


The woman cloaked in stars dances under the waxing and waning moon, flowers sprout from the earth as she steps in a rhythm long forgotten by man. Her thoughts flow to a time when there was no moon, no tides, no stars, no flowers, the dark, an embrace, she both wishes for and regrets because in that darkness was the beginning and the end.

Dissolve to: 

You pluck flowers from the garden of the waxing and waning moon. You, a goddess cloaked in stars, dream of a time when there was no moon, no tides, no stars, no flowers, the dark an embrace you wish for and regret. You know that in that darkness was the beginning and the end.


The eggplant shade of the night leaves me with shivers at the nape of my neck. I read from the paper today that the sky is about to fall on top of your head, shatter your body in the same way that a cleaver cuts meat. Eyelids flutter like trapped butterflies, nervous that the ganglia will tangle itself more and more into a forest of its own making. If I count backward, will you come back to life?

I have draped the stars around my legs to hold me. You promised me the moon. You gave me the night sky instead.

Have the peonies and lilies bloomed in my bosom? Have you gathered milk from thistles in the brown earthed areolas of my body? Will I offer you the water in my blood?

Melissa Llanes Brownlee & Cherry Lou Sy

3 Questions for Melissa and Cherry

What was your process for creating this work?

CLS: One day, I asked the Twitter writer group that Melissa & I are in if anyone was interested in participating in an exquisite corpse project for an hour. Melissa responded and we set aside time the next day to come up with prompts. I suggested that we both bring images that we could respond to. Both of us felt strongly about the image of The Lunar Cycle by Georgina Hefferman and decided to write our responses based on that.

MLB: As Cherry has mentioned, we are in a group on social media and I answered her call, literally and figuratively. Sharing space with her has been wonderful as I admire her writing so much. The image she chose resonated with me on so many levels, and I wrote two micros that we ended up using.

What is the significance of the form you chose?

CLS: I was interested in the idea of collaborative work and whether it was possible to create something coherent from more than one person. It was an exercise of care, consent, and constant communication.

MLB: We discovered that the form we chose suited all the pieces we wrote together. It was quite fascinating how we went from external to internal through our collaborative process.

What is the significance of this work to you?

CLS: Personally, I've been dealing with death, mourning, and loss in my own work especially with bodies that are left behind with the aftermath. In this piece, in the part that I wrote, I tried to evoke that sense of loss and how it expands to mythic proportions. In the process of grief, we ask ourselves impossible questions.

MLB: For me, it was the experience of working with a writer I admire. To gather and share inspiration is amazing! I would love to collaborate with her again. She’s awe-inspiring.

Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has work published or forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, Reckon Review, The Hennepin Review, Cheap Pop, Milk Candy Review, Lost Balloon, Cotton Xenomorph, Atlas + Alice, and Fictive Dream. She is in Best Small Fictions 2021, Best Microfiction 2022, and Wigleaf Top 50 2022. Read Hard Skin, her short story collection, from Juventud Press. She tweets @lumchanmfa and talks story at www.melissallanesbrownlee.com.

Cherry Lou Sy (she/her) is a writer/playwright/performer originally from the Philippines of Chinese and Filipino heritage. Currently based in Lenapehoking aka Brooklyn, New York, she received her BA at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and attended Brooklyn College’s MA in English Literature as well as the MFA in Playwriting program under Mac Wellman and Erin Courtney. She’s a recipient of fellowships and residencies from VONA and Tin House among others and a finalist for way too many things to mention. 

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