corrine klug CC
The energy you can spend pulling knives out of your back can leave you breathless. I
traveled to a country once where my mantra was “connect”. Instead, I tripped over my
own feet and fell, twice, off of cane-backed chairs. Neither one a soft fall. I became the
local entertainment by default. I was there, the air was stagnant and the people in town
took their opportunities when they presented themselves. A man who I wanted with all
my heart to adore took the soft skin of my arm and twisted until it hurt in a pleasant way.
He left me a souvenir. We are all masochists. I came home realizing some decades
inspired more nostalgia or hysteria than others and I thought of how I would never be
who I wanted to be. There were things I could never have, and yet I wanted them all the
same. I had dresses in my cedar closet that I thought would transform me, their hems
different lengths, and their colors begging for my attention. They hung from wire
hangers like sad symbols of the fire sale they came from. They smelled of destruction
and remorse. There are antidotes for nearly everything and in that country I learned how
repetitive motion could soothe frayed and jagged edges, but won’t win you any favor
among the locals. Fare bella figura. Let them run you through. The wise, if they like you,
will tell you that rust begins forming before you can see it. Deterioration, long before
you can feel it.
I called you down in a field of dust and bone; your parents spread thin and coarse.
I sifted ash through my fingers, heard the echo of every song we ever sang by heart. The
incidence of bone pierced me in all of my vulnerable tendencies, which were many. You
caused a few and kept count on the colorful abacus I was never allowed to touch. I made
peace with the jaundiced view your mother narrated to us , as she read the world through
the large magnifying glass that we’d steal and start small fires with . Later, a cardboard
dime store kaleidoscope held our interest on days of interminable heat and sun, days
when my own mother yelled in or out, in or out with exhausted rage and we chose out
because it felt like infinity. We made divinations turning the cheap thing in our hands,
reading the colorful plastic beads like the tawdry jewels of vaudeville. I predicted your
father would arrive home every night, even if only in bodily form. For your mother,
deranged with her jazzy lingo I never understood , and her barely concealed derision of
my ancestral religion, I proclaimed varicose veins and a smoker’s cough that would
forever shudder the fragile scaffold of her body. Years later, she would become
persistent in my dreams: leave my family alone. The memory of it makes the only ribs I
have left, ache like a tooth rotted to the nerve. I long for certain extravagances that I
could roll into a soft space, but the truth is , I couldn’t name them if I tried.
Michelle Reale is the author of Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press,, 2019) and In the Blink of a Mottled Eye (Kelsay Books, 2020) among others. She is the Founding and Managing Editor of OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing. She has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
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