Wrote this some time ago, forgot about it, and unearthed it on my G:drive looking for something else. The story is called a magnet for iron filings and can be found here.
The snake on the ground has a butterfly in its mouth. I cannot decide if it’s eating the butterfly or giving birth. My own mother gave birth in a drug-induced haze that rendered her unconscious, without the ability to recognize the costumed hedgehog that sprang from her legs in the grip of the forceps. She tells the story at a party for her sister’s eightieth birthday, the nurse at her elbow, the I.V. stand rocking precipitously. Her sister accuses her of lying under oath and explains the reason she’s never chosen to marry was related to a family history of gigantism. It appears a distant cousin from another state had a whole half of his face slowly outgrow the other half, the eye bulging like a Cyclops, the ear a flowering trumpet of pinkness. Mother begins to choke and the machine hooked to her arm blips and flashes as her sister wags a finger in her direction.
Crave—A call, the ringing of the bell, the deliverance from all evil. Short of breath, short of sleep, all around is the null set of no escape. On a window a spider, cream-colored, spins silk, weaves time into relentless corridors of space. Cross so many bridges, snap a bloom from a Japanese garden. Etched lines on an already tired face.
Spray—A seal bobs between sets. In on the nearing tide, out on the curve of a snapped branch. There is nothing, only the crack of the thick muscle about the heart. See how easily the scalpel penetrates the membrane, exposing the brightness below, and how emotions are carved from bone. Scrimshaw for the twenty-first century.
Yield—A trident sparks the strangest dreams. In the dark beneath the stage the dust collects in false marbles of air, the stranger’s face retaliates against the attempt to coerce it into recognition. Boxes hold beginnings, hold secrets, hold failure in plastic containers, contain the plastic lines that draw marrow from the brittle bone.
Limp—A key dangles from a chain, useless as a stumped limb. The door opened is no longer there. A blue envelope with insufficient postage contains a flightless bird, a photocopied flyer from another time. Sinews unravel and separate like watered rope-ends. This insufferable weight presses down on the delicate leaves collected on a fall day in October.
When the Virgin Mary appeared to me in the quarry, I was full to the gills. Sitting on the ruins of an old Singer sewing machine, I’d been inclined to have a tipple, but after a spin or two of the old flywheel, I’d emptied half the goddamned bottle. I remember wiping off the smudge of fingerprint, and through the greenish lens of the bottle a shape blurred into flesh. I reckon you’d think I was some sort of crank, but I swear, in those blue robes, she was true. A tingle went through my fingers and the bottle hit the soft grass and the whiskey spilled into the dry ground. She bent over and wiped the neck with the sleeve of her gown.
“You remind me of my son,” she said, swallowing a mouthful, her accent clipped, proper. “He had hands like yours, calloused, honest. I miss him, you know.”
What do you say to the Virgin Mary? I reckon she must have liked me well enough, to be talking to me. “Ma’am, I hear he was a good man, is all.”
She hobbled a ways, closer to me, held out both hands, like you see her do in the statues. When I touched those hands I noticed how like my mother’s they were. She had the same crooked, arthritic bones. We sat together for a while, watching grave crows return for the evening over the tops of the tall cork oaks, not really saying much to each other.
(in print at The Linnet’s Wings)
salmon filets marinading: 2
napping toddlers: 1
journal i’m in that arrived today: 1
cups of tea: 1
miles ran: 3.25
time of run: 35mins
hawks on light-pole outside window: 1
broken toilets: 1
pages written: 0
a little audio story: i’ll tell me ma. scroll half-way down the page!