Jul/Aug 2018 Salon

She Stoops to Conquer

by Stanley Jenkins

Image courtesy of British Library Photostream

Image courtesy of British Library Photostream


There was this lady who had been shot in the back in a place where no one would ever find her. It didn't kill her, but it did paralyze her from the waist down. As she lay there in the snow, she started to wonder why she didn't die. And also, why lying in the snow wasn't really all that uncomfortable. Pretty soon it became clear she wasn't going to die but was still paralyzed from the waist down, in a place where no one would ever find her.

And as she lay not dying, she could hear the cries of the desperadoes who had cut her down. Terrified boys with guns, really. They'd cut her down in the winter. On the Great Plains. Never in Oregon, let alone Deadwood. And never no gold. As they fled the scene of their crime. Like a herd panicked over a cliff.

And she laughed so boldly, without guile, that the Black Hills themselves got the giggles, and broke out the good stuff, and swapped tales all night long. She dreamed of cottonwood, and she never did die or live or leave. Just blessed the dirt, and made the perfume of the spring flowers giddy with spice. Her name forgotten.

She touched my neck once, with her finger. A hundred and fifty years later. In the Canadian dunes around Lake Huron. And it made my ears bleed. As I struggled to let go. And laugh.


The Wild

I used to think the lady who lived in the wallpaper wanted to do me harm. I used to think she did not love me. At night when she went riding, and the books would fly from the shelves like the dead-drop leaves of October, I was afraid. But I am wiser now. The lady clothed in the sun sometimes wears smoke.


The Healing

I was eating cherries from a chipped ceramic bowl on the lawn of the house where my father grew up. I do not like cherries. And the shadows were sinister. It was kind of chilly.

It would have been the simplest thing to stand up and go back inside the house. But I chose to eat the cherries and sit there. Everything depended upon eating the cherries. I am being made whole.


Sophia Without Sinatra

Upon arriving without Frank. Feral, with violets for her furs. The lady gathered all that had been destroyed in her sneeze. And efficiently gave suck to all her pups and kits. Chicks and peeps. A whole wide world. Cooing while they drained her of every ounce of self. Bringing them life, while she was dying. Breast-feeding in her old-white-man public. Like a pelican piercing her own breast. Upon arriving, the lady laughed.

I was overcome in her presence. Convicted.

She smiled upon me and altered the past.

O Bliss! (And never branded.)

We stepped aside—and for a moment, when the household was asleep—we kissed. And then blushed in the new Innocence.

O Happiness! (And never trademarked.)

She sneezed and destroyed worlds. I returned to the museum, a statue. Dreaming only of the lost chance to tell her how pretty she was in that dress. While I strained and pulled brittle, marble muscle. In the stretch. To rip stone. Into dance.

One kiss, and there are no more borders. I would give anything to make her laugh.


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