This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Portrait of a Woman Walking Home by Anne Casey, released by Recent Work Press in 2021.
Red hot sting
content warning for surgery and birth
I felt it all the way— no pain, just the icky press and separate as my flesh gave way— all seven layers—to the razor-sharp scalpel— two minutes of cutting, shaking and trying to breathe, then the pushing and tugging and there he was aloft under the light. My soul reached up to hold him, all slimed chalky white and bright, bright red. But black fell down sickly stealing our first meeting, steel wool filling my throat and ears. Awakened by my body thrashing and lashing itself off the metal table, rebelling against the invasion— rushed voices, golf stories giving way to a strange spewing of ccs and pressures and then I was sailing on a crashing sea, shuddering uncontrollably, floating under swimming lights into an alien lab planted with human heads strung with wires atop rolling white waves, watched by small, round, winking eyes. Embracing him later in a daze, the red-hot horror of the aftermath mangled up in new love, nestled next to me in the soft white clouds— then the rip and scream and I was the lady sawn in half at the circus, but without the magic— clasping the creeping rose at my middle, a pale-faced aide leaving me holding my two halves together, trying not to let escape the dark crimson slithering thing I feared might be my liver. You’ve ruptured, said the nurse from Waterford what felt like hours later, letting it slip into a kidney dish— the paradox lost somewhere in my state of mind. A nurse from Waterford, turned reiki healer, later told me I hadn’t let go— that’s why I had failed, in the way it happens— the switchblade wounds of women’s tongues stinging more than any surgeon’s knife, salved over and over by my children’s laughter. I saw on Facebook years after that she had a son: I wonder if she birthed him standing in a field, then walked away into the sunset clutching her prize, a cherry-bright stripe glistening on her forehead.
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