Just yesterday, I found a rabbit’s spine in the garden. I slipped each vertebra in my apron pocket.
All day, they hummed along my hip until, at dusk, I reached in and pulled out a string of pearls.
Why do you think I am lying? Because I gave away the only thing I had worth keeping? So be it.
Take this, too: once, my father touched my cheek and told me I looked just the same
as my mother when she was a girl. I know this is true because I dream of gravity,
a gentle kiss. I wake with a start, body like a rubber band let loose. Snap. And something
I almost had is gone. Snap. And my heart trips forward, clumsy as a kid. She is gypsy
dark, fingernails rimmed with black soil. Pebbles in her mouth. A gift. She made the first rabbit. I found its remains.
The Ontology of Secrets
A path, a riddle, a jewel, an oath—anything can be a secret so long as it is kept intentionally hidden, set apart in the mind of its keeper as requiring concealment. –Sissela Bok, Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation
I. A Path
near the lake. Seventeen miles. Ice so thick they say you can drive on top of it. The Buick sits idle, puffs of exhaust tangible as cotton candy. Your life is a series of idling engines, men waiting for someone to say, Let’s go. You picture the inside of a vault, paper money stacked in neat piles along the walls, and when the men go inside, the bills turn to knee-high grass, dried by the season, tossing back and forth in the wind that crossed the lake from Canada. You wish this were true. Instead, the men take the bills from the vault and your man brings some back to you, says, Take this, buy the baby something nice, and you buy her a dress, palest yellow; a new toy, clean and soft. You take the bills to the cellar, create your own vault with old bricks, an empty drum where your father used to keep his homemade wine.
II. A riddle
is like a recipe. Break the bread into chunks. Drizzle oil over the bread. Lick your fingers.
III. A jewel
looks legitimate, and no one is brash enough to ask questions. Under your skirt, the softest part of you is bruised. Your very body, the fat and the chaff. Private is the mouth that doesn’t eat. It glistens and glows. Girl, you’ll be a wife soon enough.
IV. An oath
makes you his wife. He weds you with the back of his hand, with his belt. Don’t cry. Count the bills in the cellar, go to work. When you return, watch the child fast asleep. Your body began when she did. Like a vault you kept her and will keep her. Your mouth is the vault now. You speak so little the child can’t recognize your voice when you call her back from the gulley. She’s gone far enough; she’s shouting into the ravine.
Biagio Brings Work Home
In the moment after his fist, silence. Her jaw absorbs
all sound. Even the glass breaking behind her
stills. The pain is longer than a homily. Bodies
are strong enough to withstand so much—she thinks
it would be better if her teeth could shatter
like the glass, but no. Flesh swallows impact like the lake
takes a body bound by bricks and hides it within itself. The body
becomes stronger. The mind inside learns not to react.
Transcription: Biagio Tells the Story of Red Rider
Now once upon a time there was a little girl named Little Red Riding Hood. She was the state’s champ jitterbug. She was jitterbugging on down to the forest, you know why? Because her mother told her to take these two bottles of whiskey over to her grandmother’s because she was thirsty. So Little Red Riding Hood was jitterbuggin’ on down the forest lane, and she run into one of them slick slickers, you know, one of them guys from the town in one of them jitterbug suits. He was the Big Bad Wolf. He had a zoot suit, a reet pleat, a big seat, and a stuffed cuff. So he stopped Little Red Riding Hood, and he said, “Hey babe, where you going?” and Little Red Riding Hood said, “Step aside big boy,” said “I’m on my way to my grandmother’s.” And uh, the wolf says, “Well what for?” “My old mammy’s thirsty. I got a bottle of gin here and a bottle of liquor I gotta take to my grandmother’s.” So the wolf said, “What you taking all that good stuff down to your old bag’s? Let’s you and I drink enough to cut a rug right here.” So Little Red Riding Hood said okay, so they cut up a rug. And what do you think happened?
After Months Without Trouble, Anna Grows Suspicious
Someone left a bullet on the bathroom sink. Outside, an engine exhales. Biagio, just home from work, snaps open a Zippo with two fingers and a thumb. His friends gather at the fender of the old Buick, pass a pack of Camels from one hand to the next. The radio announces bad weather—lake effect-- and on cue, snow begins to settle on the sidewalk. The men flick their smokes into the yard and drive away. Anna puts the bullet in her pocket. Across town, someone is digging a grave.
-- Sara Tracey is the author of Some Kind of Shelter (Misty Publication, 2013) and the chapbook Flood Year (dancing girl press, 2009). A local of northeast Ohio, Sara has studied at the University of Akron, the NEOMFA, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.