Michaela A. Gabriel
“It’s habitual: I count what I lost, not what I gained.”
Jayne Pupek, “Notes to Jackson”
I keep love letters under my childhood bed,
bundles of postcards – Saluti d’Italia,
the faces of friends pasted to creamy
album pages, like those of placid saints.
Thirteen baby teeth rattle in a tiny box.
In a carved jewellery case, placeholders
commemorate earrings lost in snowball fights
and making out – a gold star, a hot pink hoop.
Stumps of candles fill cardboard coffins
alongside matches, brittle and scorched,
not a spark left in them, just as there was
no spark left in those love affairs.
I count cracks in empty cassette cases,
name every song like a favourite daughter,
mark my palms with a black stroke
for each forgotten word, until my hands
are darker than midnight, darker
than the ravens that gathered
to stand guard when I woke in a body
that was, once again, mine alone.
I cradle the dead bodies of ants,
remembering slices of apples and cake
in a kitchen that smelled of sex and
flat champagne, a kitchen where,
years later, I spilled a bottle of milk
and crouched by the puddle for hours,
sobbing like a child. I keep the shards,
sharp as blades, in a wicker basket.
Oh the heads they’ve severed!
How they rolled, how each swift cut
left me with another rose stem
flaunting its innocuous thorns.
Michaela A. Gabriel lives in Vienna, Austria, where she teaches English to adults and occasionally does translation work. She has been widely published both online and in print, has recently overcome a very stubborn spell of writer’s block and is now trying to finish her full-length collection, elemental.
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