Issue 46

Molly Gaudry


excerpts from Desire: A Haunting

before the first soft light of day I am undressed and in the water

with every stroke

I stretch

reach farther

pull toward my chest

my heart

and push away

behind me

some memory of you

how you love to have the tea house trimmed and twinkling with yellow lights all winter long

how you light a candle in every window as if to say OH COME ALL YE FAITHFUL

but I am not joyful

and my only triumph today is that I have risen before the sun and forced myself into the water where there is nothing to feel but water

I do this every day because I can’t stand to open my eyes in the cottage

to see it all so clearly with the sun streaming through curtains

as if it is another beautiful spring day

as if nothing happened here

so I grope through the darkness and hold my breath from the last step of the back porch until I have made it past the cherry blossoms because even the cherry blossoms remind me

I can’t bear it

them

the cottage

but it is the only home I have now

would it have been so terrible to let me stay with you in yours

I think of the letter I have been trying to write

how more than anything I want my voice to ring true to you when I say I am trying to remain positive

but with every word I fail

on my back now and floating I let my arms and shoulders rest

watch the sun rise over the sea

over me

kick my way slowly back to shore

tired and numb

the way I need to be to start each day

and still she is waiting

all winter long since Christmas she has been waiting

every morning when I return from my swim she is waiting

standing on the back porch

arms outstretched

saying YOU CAN’T IGNORE ME FOREVER



*



she stalks me at night when I take out the cans

she says YOU WILL DIE A VIRGIN UNLESS YOU FIND SOMEONE TO TAKE OUT YOUR TRASH FOR YOU

the air is damp and her voice is thin and rasp

are you in pain

she nods and says BUT WHAT CAN YOU DO

I boil rosebuds for the salve you taught me to make and stir until their petaled fists unfurl in the iron kettle over the fire

she watches me

attempts to shoo a fly from the lip of my glass

her hand goes right through it

through the glass

the wine

the fly

which does not budge



*



she has gone so long without water her mouth skin is cracking

it has been too lonely for her in this cottage

DO YOU REMEMBER ME she wants to know

no

I put a straw in a glass of water for her and place it on the table

her broken lips go to the straw and she pretends to drink

she pretends to understand my lie

I pretend not to understand her pretending

we are like children playing cards



*



I begin to call her Ogie

she says her name was Pearl among the living but those days are gone and it is too tiring anymore to try and relive them

BESIDES she says IT HAS A CERTAIN RING TO IT THAT I LIKE, LIKE OGRE BUT NOT AS MONSTROUS

she flashes her teeth and says I PROMISE I WON’T EAT YOU

I shrug and tell her if she likes she may call me Dog

she snorts REALLY, WHAT KIND OF NAME IS THAT FOR A PERSON

it’s how my mother called me

OKAY she says BUT WHAT DID THEY CALL YOU AT THE OTHER PLACE

the dressmaker’s daughter

as in THIS IS THE DRESSMAKER’S DAUGHTER, YOU KNOW, THE ONE WHO and then their voices failed and they gestured meaninglessly and busied themselves with tasks or other topics of conversation and I was left to relive the rest of the sentence alone

I head for the back door

I’m going for a swim

don’t wait up



*



she follows me to the beach and says SO WE BOTH HAVE MOTHER SCARS TO BEAR

I lift my dress over my head and throw it at her

LISTEN

I plunge in to my knees

to my thighs and hips and waist

trying to drown the sound of her voice against the waves

THOSE WOMEN ARE DEAD she shouts WE ARE ALL THAT’S LEFT OF THEM

I stretch and reach

YOU MAY BE UNTOUCHED

I pull myself forward

I MAY BE UNTOUCHABLE

I push her and the shore away

BUT WE ARE NOT UNLOVED



*



Ogie wakes me in the morning and I realize it’s the first time I’ve slept past sunrise

I ask how she feels and she says BELOW THE WEATHER and that she is IN NEED OF MEAT AND SEX

she says she’s sad

she says she had fourteen children

her husband and their seven sons and depending on if the last girl lived or died their six or seven daughters survived her in a city far away

she admits that anymore she does not think of them that often

but today is the anniversary of her death

which was so long ago that even her great-grandchildren have grown old and died

I put a new straw in a glass of water for her and tell her if I could I would find them all and ask them here and hold them for her

because I am sinew and she is ancient as trees



Molly Gaudry is the author of the verse novel We Take Me Apart, which was named second finalist for the 2011 Asian American Literary Award for Poetry and shortlisted for the 2011 PEN/Joyce Osterweil. She is a core faculty member at the Yale Writers' Conference and the creative director at The Lit Pub.