Spring/Summer 2003, Volume 20.3
Stephanie Dickinson lives in New York City. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Cream City Review, Chelsea, Fourteen Hills, BigCityLit, Nimrod, Puerto del Sol, Iron Horse Review, among others. Along with Rob Cook she coedits the new print literary journal Skidrow Penthouse. Her first novel Half Girl is presently before publishers. Other work by Stephanie Dickinson published in Weber Studies can be seen at: Vol. 22.3.
Farm girls undress; they swim in the pond like nymphs, float
on the brown shimmering water where cows drink. Diving
into the muck, they imagine themselves the huntress Artemis,
or Aphrodite, born of castrated genitals and the froth of the
sea, though they've never seen an ocean or mountain.
They've been dropped from the thigh of Zeus, these two with
chore buckets, pulling their overalls back on, girls hoping to
bloom in one sultry corn weather afternoon. I remember my
best friend. Wild, never praised, brazen, Linda had a father
who worked her like a son, and even after our swims, she
smelled of the hog wallows. We walked barefoot into the
sweetness of dusk that had been forever coming. Bangs
hanging in our eyes, we were three miles south of anywhere,
daubing our farmer-tanned wrists with Ben Hur. No escape
from the hayfields ripening on every side, from the orange
trumpets of ditch lilies following us. My cousin, bespectacled
and freckled, trotted his pony alongside. I could never love you,
she said, shooing him. She wanted red Mustangs, Harley
Davidsons, anything fast to take her away. Crickets whirled
as we cut into the cemetery. We wandered over the graves,
talked to the blue-eyed upper classman, Jack Holub, killed in
a tractor accident. We sat on my father's cracked headstone. I
wish we could trade, she'd say, already breasty, milkiness
pushing out the bib of her coveralls. No town boy would find
us though we were goddesses. Splitting a can of warm
Falstaff, we were frantic for any forbidden fruit. But this was
Iowa, black soil country, and dangerousness came slower
than the glaciers. Her father, wearing waders and hard looks,
was quicker. Already looking for us.
I have written your name, Marjorie,
in my obituary as if
you had lived half a century
waiting for mother to lie beside
you, her bones gray like lips mumbling
prayer. The animals have come in
to you both—the worm and screech owl.
Listen, seven day old baby, the
living should haunt the dead, above all
an unloved middle child. Mother's
nerves broke behind yellow window shades
when the doctor larded his finger
to unstick you. Your intestines twisted like ribbon.
Not even the windmill could put air
back into you. They had to take you
from mother who rocked, Such a full
head of black hair. Seven days, only
a taste. Your flinty fists beat against
the raw coffin lid. You wanted out,
wanted in, hellion, you wouldn't rest.
Did you see your mother at church on
the Christmas that would have been your first,
unraveling the strings of popcorn
and cranberry from the tree? Stumps
of candle on tin plates dripped wax
stalactite over her hands. You were
the naked baby among the wise
men, and rodents were busy creatures.
I was left to carry the breathing
rat from the coal chute on a shovel.