Once upon a time there was a girl there was something wrong with.
One time she was in a place near a sort of pool. She lifted her arms and hands and stretched and stood on tippy-toes then bent to dive as if into water, clear clean blue water she saw into that shone and gleamed like light upon the waters.
Her hands and arms are raised and she’s on tippy-toes, her face is up, her eyes are closed. Inside her eyes it’s fleshy and pink. She’ll stretch and bend and dive in an arc into the pool -
Except it’s not a pool! No! It’s a mouth!! A fire-breathing mouth!! A dragon’s mouth!! It stinks like a fish. Her mouth and eyes spring open. There’s goo against her eyes and flesh. She’s breathing, panicked, gawping like a fish, and she is swallowed.
Wet wet and fire and wet and smoke and choking wet and goopy all around. Inside here everywhere is wet, it’s hot and wet and burning and instead of air it’s goo, it’s burning goo. The muscles tighten, innards squish, it’s bubbling, burning goo.
I said like a pool but more like a bucket, crammed, no room, it can’t hold anything. And she’s maybe more like an eel, a slug, too wide or thick, a garden hose that won’t ever wind up right, or it’s like a hose, and she’s like a mole, a mole in a hose, a lump in a throat, a gob in a maw of a sputtering swallowing dragon.
He got her in his mouth first by her hands.
For she had been trying to raise her hands. For she had been given hands and had been trying….to …. uh…. uh… reach… ?
though seeing not
though hoping yet
like a mole up into light
St. Margaret held up the crucifix inside or made the sign of the cross inside which irritated the insides of the dragon, who was actually the devil in disguise, so he spit her out.
Then Margaret crushed him beneath her feet.
But how, St Margaret, how!
Was she still alive? Had she stayed alive inside or did she die and then get made alive again? How could she? How could anyone live through a thing that? And why, oh why, would anyone want to?
I think it would be better to be made dead then made alive again but really better to just stay dead.
She slew him, she tamed him, she made him her pet.
But how, St. Margaret, how!
For she wasn’t Margaret, she was a mole. The eyes of a mole are as small as peas, as fitting for one fossorial, i.e., a small mammal adapted to a subterranean lifestyle of digging. She’d gotten used to this. She’d gotten used to many things. To what she did, to how things were, what happened and what did not, to wanting and trying not to want, remembering and shame. She was used to her hands, her puffy, fleshy paws, half-webbed with tiny pink play-pretend fingers, pathetic claws. They faced away from each other like flippers, like the floppy dumb shoes of Chaplin’s Little Tramp only deformed, like something’s wrong.
But other things she hadn’t gotten used to.
But what if what happened wasn’t wrong but just the way she thought.
Like if had she not been broken then she could not ever be remade? What if this was what it took? What if she’d not wanted to not be her, so hard that she had to try? What if she’d not wanted to die?
What if she hoped?
For she had attempted to raise her hands, to reach and reach— She had been given hands.
The poet once wrote:
…a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a body for?
But that I really did get wrong. I looked it up and it doesn’t say body but heaven: what’s a heaven for?
Oh, Margaret, pray for me!
- St Margaret of Antioch, aka Margaret the Virgin, is a patron saint of childbirth, women in labor, and people who are dying.
- The poem about the reach and grasp is “Andrea Del Sarto” by Robert Browning.
Rebecca Brown’s new book Not Heaven, Somewhere Else will be published by Tarpaulin Sky on October 2, 2018. She is also is a the author of a dozen other books published in the US and abroad, including American Romances, The Haunted House, The Dogs: A Modern Bestiary, The Terrible Girls and The Gifts of the Body. Her work has been translated into Japanese, German, Dutch, Norwegian, and Italian. Her criticism often appears in The Stranger. Her altered texts and installations have been exhibited in the Frye Art Museum, Hedreen Gallery, Arizona Center for Poetry and elsewhere. She will be reading from her new book at Elliot Bay on October 15.