Girl by featured artist Lora Mathis
A Grim Fairy Tale
I pulled a chicken leg from behind the moon, unearthed
three appliquéd bears on my blue gingham dress,
and mother smoking Tareyton’s in the bathroom, pink curlers,
a bobby pin between her teeth, a bobby pin in the outlet.
Barbequed chicken. Moon, close my eyes.
Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors—
Rotisserrie fingers. Flesh pepper. Charred prayers.
Mother said, Come on, baby, put your hands in the water.
She wouldn’t hold me until I touched the quacking duck.
Baby bear died in the fire. Moon, close his eyes.
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you—
The lipsticked hen shoved me off the couch. Broken egg.
Fried me in her skillet every Saturday night. Be a good girl.
That’s when he unlocked my door and Moon closed her eyes.
Barbara was a nurse. No one knows where.
Her caregivers don’t care. It’s what she was.
the brown slacks, to hide the stains,
not the smell. Oh, my. I didn’t know
we had a baby here. Do you think it’s mine?
It’s yours. John used to be an engineer.
Electrical. Doesn’t matter. Won’t say, anyway.
It’s what he was. Before—
the sundown screaming, wandering,
punching sheets. Give me my car keys. I need
to get away from all these goddamn old people.
Go to the office! Stanley was a history teacher.
Maybe grade school, before all the swearing.
Who cares? It’s what he was. Before—
his wife died, over and over again. And his son
said the memory care center was a hotel. A vacation.
Where is she? Someone just tell me! Please!
She’s dead. A stroke. Pauline used to be a dancer.
But those Rockefeller lights, and the taste of bubbly.
And the priest. Now he was a handsome devil.
Human flotsam erased in bites. Four Formers
in a former life, spoon-fed applesauce,
and Seroquel, mollified, pushed aside.
If only the forgotten would visit.