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Marie Baléo


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 headshot.jpg

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.


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