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Susana H. Case

Flashback, Bedroom

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Blame the walls and doors—they entice
the husband to punch them—
five stitches on his right wrist,

just last summer. Inanimate objects
only—he says he is a man of peace.
His familiar rage—it doesn't cease

with three days in a row of humid heat,
ninety degrees, and how come Janey
wasn't in her room in Taos after the shoot?

Like an asymptote—she's gotten so close
to perfection—can taste how close,
like she tastes the black coffee, water,

sugarless gum, all she's had for days,
so tired of being shown off
like an expensive watch.

Her precision surgery on her food—
he critiques her microscopic cutting.
And how did her ass blow up so overnight?

The mirror is relentless,
the water—she drinks too much of it,
needs to do more calisthenics, the weight

on the scale's unchanging. The food
she pretends to eat—sometimes she has
to put a small bit in her mouth, exercise

the gain away, or purge, but anything
is better than throwing up again.
The rules for when he can look at her—only

when dressed or when the lights
are out—darkness and cover. Her ribs—
where downy, pale white fur has begun to grow,

though she is freezing all the time.
The room of ecru walls—the color
picked from over thirty variations of beige,

for weeks, samples shuffled and placed
on their bed while she tried to decide,
his only comment, that nothing

was getting laid on their bed lately except
the paint swatches. Blame the husband—
he likes them thin and young.

Flashback, Family of Origin, Family of Choice

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Janey and her lover
in a rental car,
not too flashy—
a quiet Ford,
running guns to Newark.

They'd taken side roads
around the turnpike,
stopped driving to make out.
Mouth upon mouth, she knows
this is a sweet man, tries

not to find kissing difficult,
tries not to think about the time
her mother, wrapped in grief,
made her kiss
Grandfather's corpse,

that stern family
she came from, grim,
like in Hill and Adamson
sepia photographs
of fishermen,

and their wives, somber
in striped cloth skirts.
She was eleven, and,
in the casket, he was,
for once, not drunk.

Flashback, Before the Dinner Party

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Dear black lace Balenciaga flamenco
dress found in a second-hand shop
in London, thank God for the old couture,
more fun than getting newer versions

as presents from wealthy men
with large expectations, so decadent,
the cost of clothes. Dear memory
that never fully leaves, of the crowded

family cabin where Mother died,
in the West Virginia hills, the roof
leaking, the steps down from the porch,
creaking. Dear beaded velvet shoes,

to go with the dress. To rough it up,
dear side-swept pixie hair, dear pills.

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