859 Readings


We’re all meant to go like this, in a tapestried room,
the chandelier tinkling like an insistent fork against
its oyster. We pry at the walls, find the softest part. When
the arras shifts, we see a pair of sconces, one crumpled

like the fine cloth of the man’s face. She’s even thinner
than in her dress, that white rag on the floor, and her hands
bite his neck the way children do. The alcove hovers over
like the Virgin. Helen he says we’ll be together and slips

his smallest finger into her mouth. He could be buried
wearing her. My love she says it won’t hurt much longer. The neck
is a stalk to a beautiful flower, and the last time she pulled
until she heard his collarbone crack, it rolled

back his eyes, showed the whole of their lily-
whites. That last time, it was play. He wanted to hold her
as she rattled down the dark hill to that well, to pound
those stones, to shout his name and hear only her name

echo back. It took no convincing. He wanted entry, and she
a skeleton key. Helen she said. He laid her on the goatshead rug
so she could count its cold teeth. There was the crowbar
and the pillow and the buckets and the sheets,

all the white sheets he could find. There was the blood,
and the next night, there was more.
Posted 02/09/13
Previously published in Tin House 54.
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