CATALYTIC Swimming upstream is a talent. Movement abstracted from a particular situation is an exercise and not a particularly useful one. For instance, when I was born , a man leaned over me with a silver dollar on his chest. It gleamed with possibility, I was told. Intention counted for something then. His disappointment shone brighter than currency, which my mother tried to temper. She waved her hands as if shooing a flock of jewel –like birds , which had nothing better to do than flap wildly with bird-like exclamation. My father dozed with his eyes at half-mast, a characteristic we’d become used to and for which he was known. The blood red Trillium along the border of the narrow house, he’d cultivated for two generations. If he was lucky, there would be a third. Even pre-cognitive, the smell of death wafted my way. It would always be like this. I could discern the timing of things. They called it a gift. The variables were always shifting, but I managed to find the right angle to things. That egress window was a portal to safety or it was nothing at all. Decorative was not in our nature. I would have given my life for the idle abstractions of my own family history, a way to do it properly, or just end it all together, but the story dictates we were always ever on our own. Assurances sucked noisily on a wayward breast. There is a ghostly foreshadowing linked forever to the the knife that is sharp, but destined to rest in the linoleum lined drawer, no matter what it is capable of. VOLPE I wonder what she might have thought of my penchant for wishful thinking, my magical mindset where a situation could change simply because I willed it. I wonder what she would have thought of me hunched over the glow of my phone in the early a.m. , self soothing, eyes wild in the night. How often I felt like St. Sebastian, with the sharp end of everyone’s opinions and points of view piercing my soft spots. How would she feel that I turned out to be the one who wears trauma like the coat she’d let me borrow– old, hooded and smelling of apprehension? It hung on an ornate hook someone placed in that dark cellar way a century before, at the ready. She grabbed that coat every time she hung clothes and remorse on the line, where they would freeze with indignation. What might she have to say now, the seer, who predicted her own death to the hour? I want future flowers for honest endeavors. A voice that never quite hits an adequate pitch might bring fortune, however wayward. My hands are open. She could persuade me to stimulate my memories to influence my further moral decline. Or maybe she just affected the stony wall of so many silences that formed the backdrop of those formative years and beyond. There is cunning beyond what the spirit can imagine. Some might reject the mythology of the good omen, but not me. That screeching fox at the screen door had my attention. I imagine you watch dilemma’s unfold from your unique vantage point in another dimension. Watch the drops of someone’s precious blood scatter like quicksilver, catching the light, spreading across the shrink and expansion of time.
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Michelle Reale is the author of several poetry collections, including Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press, 2019) and Blood Memory (Idea Press, 2021) and Confini: Poems of Refugees in Sicily (Cervena Barva Press, 2022). Her prose poem collection, In the Year of Hurricane Agnes , has just been published by Alien Buddha Press. She is the Founding and Managing Editor for both OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing and The Red Fern Review.
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