A Conversation Between a Scorned Mistress and a Useless Widow I. I am the scorned mistress, says the scorned mistress nakedly. She gives up the brilliant golden burnish of girlhood in the time it takes for the motel bathwater to run dry. The last time she had sex with the man who made her a mistress, he reached into her Burberry coat pocket with two fingers still inside her pink, virgin girl flesh and unspooled her youth out onto the mattress. He nicked a Camel Light, and the mistress minded this less, because she’d been trying to quit for a fortnight. The killing stick lit while he came. II. The useless widow’s throat ripples like she’s swallowing a pachinko ball, and the scorned mistress understands it as agreement—her late husband, the mattress-store owner, imagines useless widowhood to be dreadful. In riposte, she imagines his tongue cut and pinched by a small, pink woman who owns a futon store. It’s not a kink: she likes how the tongues’ pores flower in liquid. III. Some postulant artist paints a still life of cantaloupe that’s mistaken for the mistress and widow. He squanders spring complaining. The pair of women spend June giggling, and eventually hang the picture above their mattress.
Stone Fruit Thursday, the sky holds a pocket mirror up to her vagina. She can’t keep her plum-slick fingers from wobbling, so the mirror travels deeper and deeper until it hits the thing growing inside her. For a moment, the thing is a baby, and the baby’s hands are small enough. Next, the baby’s hands learn how to trim fat from meat. Today, the sky gets an abortion. The man-ape-doctor specializes in husband stitches, not babies-turned-butchers, so he forgets to use the numbing medication. I’m apologetic, he afterthinks. That’s a nice afterthought: his skin twitching. The sky feels the thing growing inside her stop growing. Tonight, the sky is inconsolable. Her husband never re-emerges with the heating pack. That means she swallows the stones, that means she spits out the fruit.
Mary Janes My sister dumps a body in the river and the body is hers. She’s caught mid-September, puckered like a nectarine jacket. Skin wrinkles faster than leather. Her Mary Janes are sodden but unscathed. It’s called a victimless crime. Shucking my sister’s feet requires coaxing a buck knife all the way down to the bed of the heel, where the skin goes soft. Three days after my sister’s lungs flood, every tree sprouts red-brown leaves. I carry my squishy soles to the man whose shucking knife I borrowed. Oyster season is coming. I put the knife between a tin spoon and a cocktail fork punched through an olive. He asks if it was self-inflicted. I tell him that’s just a stretchier way to say suicide. I ask if we can have sex. I keep my wet Mary Janes on up until he rocks hard enough into me to send a shoe hurtling at the drywall. It’s then that I realize my first sex-concurrent revelation: drowning isn’t baptismal in nature, but in practice, always.
Five Stages of the Moon 1. Last morning, a thing waxed inside your belly. The thing weighed a little more than an oyster cracker. That night, there was blood in your toilet bowl, in your underwear, making the cotton pill. Face it: you’re fucked. You’re in the Safeway parking lot, because you’re in charge of the Charcuterie board for the dinner party. You’re in the Safeway parking lot, but you can’t stomach an aisle of perfect lumps of meat. Look outside your window. Watch the moon wane. 2. You play a game where you take turns matching your white spool of thread to things around the kitchen: Vermicelli, lard, the plastic lining the compost bin. Toni Anne’s skin, which she disqualifies, because it’s peach. The moon through the insect screen. Toni Anne, who has a gap between her two front teeth, swills moon juice. 3. You tried to outrun the moon with a friend once, someone you liked and wanted to be like. The strip above your upper lip no longer hairless. You made it as far as Michigan before you found it peeking behind a seedy hotel like the shaft of a white boot, and it all felt so hopeless. He must’ve kept running. It turns out you weren’t much like him at all. 4. Vanilla pudding pairs with Moscato, and you’ve been eating it with Cabernet. So that’s where it went wrong. Your lover has big wet brown eyes. It’s a toss-up between eating him, making love to him. You flip through wine catalogs, dog-ear a selection of merlots, lick the page and watch the words swim around. It’s a vineyard with grapes as big as thumbs. He points out stars, but the moon crouches behind his index finger. It’s the end of something, realizing how big his hands are. 5. Let’s say you’re a poet. You’re a poet, a poor-speaker. There aren’t enough words in your head, so you memorize the label on a bottle of poppyseed dressing. Sodium Alginate. Xanthan Gum. Stevia. Your poems are shit. The moon is suspended outside your door, but you can’t put words to it. Big. White. Hollow.
Photography Credit: Jason Rice
Nora Esme Wagner lives in San Francisco, California. She was a 2020 Adroit Journal Summer Mentee. Her work has been published in JMWW and The Telling Room.