(AND ONE ON THE CORNER WITH A SHOVEL)
by Stephanie Bryant Anderson
She stood in the basement. Smelled raw meat. A stench that nauseated her body. She had never given them fathers, instead let God come to her shaped like a small brown bird. He paced the gutters. Taught the moon to fly. Taught the stars how to fall. She jumped in, fell like they did.She stayed in the open space of silence. Tiptoed through it like sleep across the room. Afraid of what she might break, or the sounds that may press her skin. The children brought her flowers, rocks, teeth in jars. She tipped the glass, drank them down deep. She knew eventually the bullet would catch in their little hearts. They would come to know dried up meadows. She nursed them from her breast, pressing their hearts to her own for protection. And tucked them into the pockets of her bed.
Her head moved back, her eyes walked the ceiling.
She crawled into the shadow of the bird.
Her thoughts lived against the dying throats of eight men. One for every fingertip. Loss settled on delicate wrists. She watched them run down like bleeding. She buried them in with the jar of teeth and ears and hope. Cancer flowered into her lungs. It flowed from them to her, a deadly carcinoma that she once had mistaken for a mildewing of the eyes. They lived life as negatives. She hated that in them. They didn’t believe in hymns, lamentations or passions the way she did. The pupils of their eyes were rectangular like goats. She dilated from their vision. As a means of escape.
She closed their eyes.
She had grown used to growing in and out of boxes. She was used to winter, the snow of her expectations. Still, her heart-box was strong.
She moved to stand on the outside. She wanted to breathe like the open streets of a late night city. Wanted to see him standing on the corner of her lungs where she saw him shoveling bits of earth. He was calling her heart, sounding it out like the beauty of rain. And stuffing the used body parts of men in tiny boxes.
Stephanie Bryant Anderson lives in Tennessee. She leads a simple life with her two boys. Her writing has most recently been published in The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review and Danse Macabre. She co-edits Up the Staircase.