by Angela Meredith
She says I have spidery arms and legs and that my hair is like her hair was:
long fine strands of golden brown.
My eyes hide mysterious plans involving starlight and pink silvery kisses.
She likes how I caress her face like I would my baby doll,
and hold her cheek like the buttercup I picked with my pointy fingers and dirty nails.
She describes my hands as two deliberate hushes.
When she catches me staring off with my eyes half closed
and the corners of my mouth turned down, she says she sees it in me.
She says I have the sight.
If I see a future of great disappointment, or endless striving,
I should still choose orange for my room and study for the spelling test.
So far all I see is the end of my reign as child.
It is my wedding day and I am nine.
My purple sari floats around my small bird ribs,
and my arms, two dry twigs,
are all I have to carry bread and water.
I will marry because my first baby tooth came in up top,
glistening pearl-like and ominous, it left my soul exposed,
as though it were hanging from a Buddha tree by a thin silk string
with a group of starving men lying beneath.
My family saved their money to pay the marriage fee.
Then the shaggy three-legged dog appeared.
He smelled like dirt and rotten meat.
Under his fur crawled his skin,
silvery black and lecherous.
He was the one that would save me,
bring my soul back into place—
this mangy dog, my husband.
A boy grabbed my breast at school today.
He was obedient to a fixation with my budding body,
and it was his for a moment, for I said nothing.
I stood still as the statue of Juliet in Verona
where tourist pose for a picture
with a hand on her right breast.
They’re told that touching her
will bring true love, so they smile
and reach for her stone breast,
worn smooth and flat.
I walk down the corridor into the humid airport lobby,
feel my newly permed hair, pubic like and all too bouncy,
coil on my head and form tightly around my thick glasses
as I look through the pink plastic frames, suck in my stomach
and search the crowd for my dad, his new wife, and her kids,
including a girl about my age.
All the while I’m conscious of the leotard I wear under my clothes
to help suck in the fat, a trick my own mother taught me,
indoctrinating me into the fat life then sending me here to Florida
to live with my fat father and his new thin family,
but I already know what’s about to happen.
He’ll do things to prove it.
Tattoo their names on his forearm,
needling little flowers over other names to make room.
He makes art out of deception.
I question the presence of bones,
that this is really air in the airport
and not sugar white sand filling every wrinkle
and nostril and gap between father and daughter.
Then I see them all standing there looking straight from the beach
and I bumble over with my unfortunate hair, and one soft bag full of yesterday.
When the young soldiers dressed in wedding gowns
and fluorescent pink wigs broke the door down,
they smelled of sweat, wine, and pungent smoke.
They were a swinging rotary of fists and boots
as they tore mom’s dress off and pounded her
the way I’d been warned about.
The way they do most of us,
and one could be my father.
Maybe the one who came for me,
a little scrap he could chew on.
The brutal razor of him gnawed
at my belly from the inside.
I wailed and cried until I was numb,
and he was a figure obstructing light,
raging the hysterical war path
across my small body.
– – – – –
Angela Meredith is a writer and mindfulness teacher living in Tallahassee, Florida. She has an M.A. in creative writing from the University of Central Florida and a career in marketing and communications. Her work has previously appeared in Bayou Literary Magazine, The Great American Poetry Show, Freshwater, and Iron Horse Literary Review among other publications.