ISSUE TWELVE | SPRING 2019
One night, as you contemplate
your stained underwear, you are
ambushed by the following thought:
anytime a man has assaulted
you, it was never you in attendance,
but always some hesitant understudy,
a still life of your face, your home
after it was robbed of all your things.
It was this ersatz whose thighs were stroked
by the hand of an acquaintance
under the table while her boyfriend sat
to her left. Above the table, all smiled
and carried on. It was her, not you,
whose ribs were crushed by a great mass
of a man, all beard and knotty fingers, nude girls
plastered on the cold walls of his garage
(he captures them headless, always),
scalding breath slid inside her (you know
I’m going to see you naked, right?) It was she, again
(it’s like you attract it) who found herself dragged to
the airless back of a thrift shop on a holy Sunday
by the man with the smile lines around
his eyes. She saw them, close enough to feel his
warmth, before she made the run for the thirty-inch
gap between the metal curtain and the ground.
How ridiculous she looked, scampering down
the streets of Ménilmontant like small game.
On the day at the river when a boy
snatched her by the crotch and carried
her away, you, of course, were not around.
But raptured by the godly joy of being home
again, floating in the only air you ever loved,
you decided, no, you knew that you would remain
untouched - and, hands open, abandoned her to her
own devices. You saw her from above, the freckles and
sunburn, the drops on her shoulders - but recognized
nothing. You noted: the lack of expression on her
face, the absence of words in her mouth. How determined
she seemed to remain rooted in the before. You noted:
her desertedness, like grey rubble in an abandoned city. Or maybe
she was something different, something corrupted: spoiled fruit,
once new (you remember). Yes, a tainted, tattered mash
of organs and fat and blood (disintegrated). And as
invisible hands dipped her, again, again, into this stream
you loved so much, you began to count down the seconds.
Marie Baléo is a French writer born in 1990. She began writing fiction and poetry in 2017. Her work has been nominated for a Best of the Net award (2017 and 2018) and for Best Microfiction (2018) and Best Small Fictions (2018), and her poems and stories have appeared in Passages North, Yemassee, Litro, Lunch Ticket, Tahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere. She is an editor for Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel. Marie grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, and Oslo, Norway. mariebaleo.com
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