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Michelle Reale


A prowl through a familiar neighborhood like passeggiata in the old country, your overcoat with the pelted neck over your arm, despite the heat. You once claimed to feel emotion like a great spasm, intense and intermittent. An inconvenient thing to be endured. She would wait in her carpet slippers, after anointing herself with the drugstore cologne that she kept in the Frigidaire, and smooth her skirt with gnarled hands. The interminable percolation of the coffee on the blue gas ring was like commiseration. You present yourself over the threshold (let us imagine) like a dissident and her happiness sounds like a muffled strangulation (we imagine, further). You are like a grenade in her life, thrown from a distance. Neither her thick cardigan sweaters, nor the tiny Star of David around her fleshy neck will protect her. The coffee, bitter and full of grounds (with a hint of cinnamon) will cool in the cups, as you sigh extravagantly. Your intentions are utilitarian, like a hunting knife, though in your younger years the potential for damage was greater. You begin to carve everything to your own desire. The sweat on her upper lift is a shimmer in the bright kitchen light. Blood on the carpet, sinew in the sink. She, he, you her. Nothing but anxiety in her grooved, austere face.


Named for sorrow, she shrouds herself in paisley—eats garlic and grape jelly to repel the devil. A waking dream of the bleeding and thorny sacred heart of Jesus flays her possibilities, negates the life she thought she had ahead of her. She irons the soft, worn flannel of his shirt, carefully negotiating the collar—the scorch and mist of the steam reach her dry cheeks. Afterwards, she places the vitamins near the cup and saucer, as she waits for her husband, a man who sharpens saws by day and engages in drunken reveries by night. She hears the Pole with the shotgun next door as his sister, mute, polishes their windows with newsprint. The shared yard stands as a witness to domestic situations—and she wonders what her husband might do without her. She scrapes slop into the trashcan and lifts her hand in greeting to the Pole. His sister stops the up and down motion of polish to watch with eyes that can’t see and ears that can’t hear. The Pole lifts his heavy lids in greeting. She hears her husband in the kitchen, calling for his coffee.

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