(Previously published in Moraine, by Pearl Editions as well as Pearl Magazine)
She wears her life like an awkward dress
she made in high school Home Ec class
decades ago. It doesn't fit too well by now:
the waist too high and tight, the sleeves
too narrow, and the color -- what
was she thinking? But it's her life now
and changing it would mean unraveling
everything, laying out a new pattern,
learning all the new rules in that hazy puzzle
of the unknown. Here she is tied up
with cords she made herself; she knows
every thread by heart. The face of her captor
stares out of her eyes in the mirror:
the anxious burning eyes of the bride
in the wedding photos, pale as the ivory lace,
gripping in gloved hands the trembling bouquet.
- Tamara Madison
This Gun is Real
I have seen my face in the black metal
felt the heat
breathed gray dust hanging
in the air.
This kid knows
what makes Saturday night special.
I open the flue
hide the gun in the chimney.
I am talking about terror.
Now I look for the knife.
this knife is real.
I have seen it at work
slicing the Sunday roast.
I slide the knife
into the shoe box
replace the lid.
Now it’s the middle of the night.
I am lying on the floor.
From the light under my door
He says, “I’m taking the kid.”
She says, “I’ll do anything.”
Something black comes up from my stomach
This child knows
how to die.
Sundays, he sleeps late.
We get up early.
I bring her the knife.
She starts dinner.
pot roast sliced thin
pearly white onions
potatoes steamed in their pink jackets
leftovers all week.
- Donna Hilbert