This is fine. This all will be fine. Perhaps now
I’ll stand, arms open, on a rainy Paris day, thinking of things
that are not you.
You never wanted to see Paris, I know, you only said that
to make me want you.
Now I think I will take a class, a figure-drawing class,
spend hours studying bodies at arm’s reach,
pencil their curves and lines, touch them in a way
you never touched me.
You told me I could not draw. I know, I’m no artist,
I realize that.
I feel fine. Like the fine in fine wine. Or the fine of fine china,
see-through fragile, yet solid enough to hold something
When you held me, it was after I had sucked you dry, before you slept
heavily in dreams of others.
I look at a woman on the sidewalk now, and I see her
like you must have—how her hip shapes the skirt, how the skirt slips
between her legs.
I think now I will change my name. Not just my last name, that name
that is you, but my first name. I will be Scarlet, I think. Or maybe Violet.
I know I will be a color.
When you gave me your name, I wrapped myself inside it like an egg
in tissue paper. I drew the curve of the R for hours.
The priests showed up when he was two weeks old. They hid things like the remote control or bottles of breast milk. I saw their long dark robes out of the corner of my eye, but only for a moment. They were very fast.
Before Ben was born I read Virginia Woolf and Gloria Steinem. I washed and rewashed baskets full of green onesies, gave up cigarettes, vodka and rare meat. He was born at 3:33am with a birthmark identical to the one I used to see on his father’s neck.
I was always feeding him. I never slept more than an hour at a time. When an hour would go by and he didn’t wake up, I would shake an arm or leg to make sure he hadn’t succumbed to something bigger than me.
They aren’t there to hurt me, just annoy me by moving thing. They watch. The doctor looked at the clock as he handed me a piece of paper. Formula bothered me more than priests, so I put the paper away in the drawer by my bed.
A week later, I woke up and Ben’s eyes were faintly glowing red, a pitchfork shaped tongue darted in and out of his mouth. The priests were no where to be found.
I hid in the shower, listened to him scream until the sun came up.
He deserved more than Virginia Woolf. I bought formula. I filled the prescription.
I smell broken glass and I can
call your bluff
I know my mom’s smoking grass but
she’s good enough
Long purple shadows cover
Ghost girls follow my brother
and kiss him in the snow
Choke on tollbooth candy
somewhere beyond the pavement
Following you and me
is the option of enslavement
Sugar burns in your hands
and your life is on a string
We felt summer creeping in
We were young and whispering
As I wiped ashes from your face
I shivered on the floor
I wiped ashes from pale grace
Don’t burn me anymore
Mid Rivers Review is an annual publication of St. Charles Community College. Writers are welcome to submit original unpublished poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction and artistic photos from October through January.
See a complete list of submission guidelines at www.stchas.edu/midriversreview.