September 23, 2021 by The Citron Review
by Cate McGowan
Today, I fashion a scarf from your seven braids,
weave a coverlet of sorrows. The warp: tresses
you once molted on my pillow. The weft:
black-wire strands, hair I’d tug as you
entered my tent. Not so long ago (or was it
long ago?), ruthless Philistines tricked me
into believing their twined tales. So I barbered
you, and your slick plaits slithered to the floor,
slapping the warm tiles. It was done. Your
strength scattered to the desert’s corners.
Dusk disappeared, too, like a night storm,
azure, curling, buffeting the horizon.
My servants held you down. And then I carved
out your eyes. Oh, how I’ve grown to regret
my sécateur cuts—you no longer plant seeds
inside my kingdom. And fallow fields are useless,
aren’t they? Now, we lounge in our charnel-like
pavilion, and you shift, dry joints creaking on
the divan, and you complain about the bitter
wine, pinkie hooked as you sip last year’s harvest.
I comb your ringlets into my loom, gossip about
the battles out there, chariot races, army marches
you’ve missed. But you’re distracted. Your frail
frame moves toward the open window, and the lace
curtains cloud around you. Your fingers flit and swat
at phantoms, and you trace the crewel on your
embroidered tunic, then grip the railing. How a warrior
wastes into an idea. Muscles unmarbled. Bones brittle.
Breakable. You face the sky, eye sockets escutcheoned,
cirrus speeding away, and you fly.
Cate McGowan is an essayist, poet, fictionist, and author of two books. She won the Moon City Short Fiction Award for her debut short story collection, True Places Never Are, which was also a finalist for the Lascaux Short Fiction Collection Prize. Her debut novel, These Lowly Objects, appeared in 2020. McGowan’s work has been published in numerous literary outlets, including Glimmer Train, Norton’s Flash Fiction International, Crab Orchard Review, Hypertext Magazine, Shenandoah, Stone Coast Review, Vestal Review, and Tank. A native Georgian and current, reluctant Floridian (Heat! Hurricanes! Alligators! Scary politics!), McGowan has an MFA and is completing her PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies.