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Beth Gordon


I have no intention of surviving the apocalypse.
Walking barefoot down the middle of a highway, crow corpses, unopened cans of diced peaches.
I won’t wear the shoes of the dead. Don’t ask me why. There’s nothing rational about the end times.
I’m not one to fantasize about how clever I will be when night falls and mutated wasps begin to sting.
I don’t even like camping. Uneven dirt and bottled water. Mosquitos of questionable lineage.
So, I understand why I’m in solitary confinement. Across the river, banished from your breathing space.
24 hours of vomit, fevered dreams, blackened water, blistered cast-iron skillet, and I’m still alive.
But your papery lungs are not strong enough to process carnivorous bacteria, your brain would seize
its own tired cells, your heart equally silenced.

What I Do on My Summer Vacation

I sit in a truck so long that I wish for an epidural, anything to numb my spine, muffle the dreary words that gush from my husband’s spittled mouth.

There was a time when I absorbed every syllable, every letter, every pre-language hungry grunt with the awe of a newly converted Jesus-worshipper.

A time when I believed he spoke truths that would jettison me, without fear, into the unexplored universe. But now, I can’t bear his company for the 10-

hour drive from Illinois to North Carolina. I crack open a window to let in soot, butterflies, diseased mosquitos, count the intermittent white lines,

wave at truck drivers, play a mix CD of early 90s love songs just to watch the wrinkles around his eyes multiply. We were supposed to go the beach this year,

but his father has lost all well-earned knowledge, his whole life transformed from white picket fences to labyrinths entangled by blackberry bushes

and dying pine trees. I know we are doing the right thing, driving into smoky mountains, summoning our children, interpreting last wills and testaments

while the old man is still breathing, but don’t tell me to be a loving mother, a faithful wife, I’ve done my time, I’ve got the Caesarean scar to prove it.

My bones are trapped in this machine, my mind in the ocean, seashell particles scrape my inner thighs, sharp edges, moonlit tides, vying to release me.

The Last Wife

She found him by the hospital window whispering to his dead best friend.

I told you not to volunteer and now your mother hates me.

The doctor signed the discharge papers.

I’ve got rabbits at home, she said, but I don’t raise them for the meat.

There will be no more slaughter for you to witness.

I’ll rescue you from the street and spin their shed fur into cocoons.

Build a rabbit-fur fortress in the dining room. You can stay there as long as you like.

Forever if you love me.

That woman was crazy his third wife tells me.

After he left she filled the house with rabbits from cellar to rooftop.

He went back to fix her kitchen sink just once but after that he never left my side.

➥ Bio