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Red on Her Fingers

". . . it came from everywhere.  Which is to say it was
always there, and that it came from nowhere."

-- "Mood Indigo," Blues If You Want, William Matthews

Every morning it was waiting on the other side of her
eyelids;  lingering near the coffee pot until fed; 
it didn't eat much, though it ate often;  at first

it was only a sound in her body, racehorses crossing
her chest;  her breath and her heartbeat panting at the gates;
her bowels rumbling with the winner;  it became

other people's opinions, something gray that soiled
the town, selecting victims by the size of their hearts;  it
was a challenge in black and white;  knight to queen's fifth,

the envy of a baritone for a soprano who sings the bass line; 
but she caught the rare whiff of hatred in the piano
bench, a small mirror hanging in a tin frame;  she found it

red on her fingers from forcing open the hard nut of
compassion;  and it was worn like calluses for a gui-
tarist, green bruises inside the gymnast's tired thighs;

but truly it was also confession, an old shame trickling
down her leg;  she felt bellows pumping, the open wings
of  a heron flapping;  and thick freckled arms stoking

the fire in the living room of its childhood, where at Christmas
the black engine and four cars circled and circled back into
grievances, admissions, and closed fists pounding;

rosaries began to murmur about it, and quickly
everyone would take sides.          Once
in the back of a drawer she found an old

photograph of it:  1949;  she stands
barefoot, alone on a sidewalk, little shoulders
strapped in a sundress;  her hair long

and light;  one hand on her hip; 
that hip cocked;  the other hand shades
her eyes;  she's squinting at it, daring it to shoot.

"Red on Her Fingers," was published in Tumblewords:  Writers Reading the West, University of Nevada Press, 1995.

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