Monday, November 25, 2013

#107: "Makeup" by Hadley Moore

~This piece was originally published in slightly different form in Midwestern Gothic (2012).

So this was what it was. Champagne gold read the label on the box. Anne Marie looked at the silver-colored pot in her hand, its contents like a dessert, a blondish mousse in a miniature ramekin. Against the lip of the pot’s smooth white insides the champagne gold seemed dark, but impossibly pale for its intent.
Was her face champagne gold? Champagne gold where it wasn’t port wine?
            Fifteen minutes ago her mother had returned from shopping in Traverse City. Among the bags she brought home was a tiny unmarked vellum one in which was nestled a tinier box (in which, Anne Marie knew now, had been nestled the still tinier pot of this mousse-like makeup).
"I found it at Macy’s," her mother told her.
Anne Marie had smiled and said thank you and asked if she should wait until tomorrow to open it.
"No. It’s not a birthday present. But listen, Anne Marie, don’t be mad."
And Anne Marie had wondered what she meant. The package looked like it could hold a pair of earrings, or a lip balm, maybe.
"Don’t be mad," her mother said again. "It’s just…I saw it, okay? I ran across it. And I thought of you. You’ll be thirty-nine tomorrow, honey. I mean, thirty-nine. That’s almost middle-aged."
Maybe not a lip balm, but earrings, perhaps, or a brooch.
"It’s not a birthday present. It’s just that it seemed…it seemed time. All right? Now I’m going out again for a bit."
When her mother gathered up her things to leave, Anne Marie had the sense she was being given privacy. She’d need the whole house to herself, apparently, to open the tiny package—and then she’d wondered, panic traveling up from the middle of her chest, what kind of sex thing could be so small. Was her mother giving her a filthy toy? Or birth control? Oh Lord, it made sense: "Don’t be mad," "You’ll be thirty-nine tomorrow," "It seemed time."
"No, Mom!" Anne Marie had shouted.
"Don’t be mad. I’ll be back in a couple of hours," her mother said, and shut the door behind her.

Monday, November 18, 2013

#106: "Chelsea Hotel, Room 101" by Allie Marini Batts

~This poem previously appeared in New CollAge Magazine (2001).

Chelsea Hotel, Room 101

is where they bring the gurney.
Between sodden lingerie, the knife’s rough part
grins like teeth in a tissueless tract where babies can’t grow.
Closed tight or half-open still, you think of your fingers
and count the times I didn’t call.
It’s like a hunger, this ache in my belly.

There’s a wet suck as it leaves my belly,
divesting me of Cupid’s arrow before raising the gurney.
If I had air left in my lungs, I’d call
for you, but I don’t. That’s the hard part.
I can feel your fingers,
even as the chills grow.

It is New York, cat-calls and traffic and sirens grow
loud too early in the day, and my belly
was full and tight now two hours ago, your fingers
did not trail behind the gurney
looking for one last touch through a cloth part.
You start to wonder if I did call.

Perhaps you slept through my call,
deaf to my voice in your opiate dreams; this can grow
tedious, the way television and smack is the part
of our day that never stops. You touch my belly
in your dream, and I turn into grey flesh on the gurney,
then straight back to ash, slipping through your bruised fingers.

Under the sink, my fingers
spread open wide from wanting. I grew sticky, my call
was too quiet for you to hear. I can see the gurney
for a split second, before the lights in the room grow
blurred. I have an echo in my belly,
spilling onto the tiles, my secret inside part.

In that desperate, strung-out part
of sliding away from you, at last I could feel. My fingers
found steel, mumbling inside my belly.
I am bleeding beneath the leaking sink. I don’t want to call
out to you, because you won’t let me grow
cold on the tiles, waiting for the gurney.

This is the part where I call goodbye to you.
I grow backwards, born again bloodless, a screaming baby again with closed fingers.
I can’t see you anymore from the gurney; I am curled up inside my own dead belly.


Monday, November 11, 2013

#105: "Calling Up Billie" by Susan Starr Richards

~This story first appeared in Brilliant Corners, A Journal of Jazz & Literature (2004).

            That carefully breathy voice speaking out of my phone in the middle of the night, conjuring up my whole lost world—the late-night city world I left behind.
            “Are you sitting down?” the voice asks me.
            I’m lying down, in the bed. It’s 3 a.m. I live in the country now.
            But I’m wide awake, suddenly. “Why? What’s happened, Jo?” I ask.
            A pause. “This isn’t Jo. This is her sister,” the voice says.
            But it’s still Jo’s voice I hear. A voice that knows just how to let itself drop at the end of a phrase—the end of a moment—the end of a set. That music has a dying fall. So does the voice.
            And now that same voice—it says it is her sister—is telling me Jo had a dying fall, herself. Out the window of her apartment, fourteen stories down. What’s wrong with this conversation? Everything. How can someone who killed herself be telling me so on the phone?
            “I thought you’d want to know,” the voice says, before it drops back into the dark. “Since you were such good friends.”

Monday, November 4, 2013

#104: "Bounty and Burden" by Kelly Martineau

~This essay originally appeared in Quiddity (2012).

Bounty and Burden

In those days, when my parents were still married and we lived in the white colonial on a tree-lined street, I began curling my shoulders forward, wrapping my body so that my chest sagged and became a hollow.  Once, when I was four, I wore a candy necklace—an elastic round punctuated by pastel beads that I could crack with my baby teeth.  My father’s best friend bought the necklace at the grocery when he and my father escaped from their wives long enough to buy more beer on a muggy Saturday afternoon.  Long after the candy was gone, the adults still emptied the cans.

            In yoga, much work is done to open the chest.  Note the breath as it enters the lungs.  Lift the chest to the sky during sun salutations, in standing poses.  I breathe space into my upper body and feel my breastbone rise as my shoulders ratchet open, tugging against the years of internal rotation.