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December 22, 2022 by The Citron Review

by Emily Lowe


It is called “Underbelly”


Inspired by Aaron Wilcox’s Sculpture “Underbelly”


1. It is a coiled spinal cord rolled and twisted and churned.

2. It is mangled train tracks painted white.

3. It is thick sets of clothespins strung on a wire.

4. No, it is all broken bones. It makes me think of a story my friend told me when she hiked through redwood titans—a ghost forest in fog. Out of the mist, a man emerged dragging the clean, white rib of a whale.

5. It is a ball of knotted tires.

6. It is a wadded-up piece of trash: one large, discarded mistake.

7. It is made of zip ties, those stiff plastic threads that can’t loosen. As a child I tested zip ties on my wrists, tightening them until my skin puckered into a valley, the watching the color wither away from each finger.

8. It is called Underbelly which means the soft underside.
       a. I think hidden.
       b. I think dark spaces.
       c. I think family flashlight hide-and-seek during childhood power outages and how once, after an hour of searching the house, my father was still missing. Gone, I thought. He’s gone, gone, gone. But then his laughter shook the darkness above. I shined my light onto my father’s belly, all 200 pounds of him perched on the fridge like a cat. He looked down at me, his smile white and wide as a rib.

9. It is a secret tucked into itself: still, sleeping.

10. It is a brain.
       a. A dead brain; drained of its fleshy pink.
       b. A choked brain.
       c. A father’s brain—stroke-stricken.

11. It is a ceramic piece. Pottery, like the kind I used to paint at birthday parties: a father wolf and his cub, a papa giraffe, and his calf. I hated how slowly the kiln cooked, that I could not immediately take my fathers home with me.
       a. I could never be a potter.
             i. I could never stand work as slow as grief.

12. It is called Underbelly which means a vulnerable or weak part.
      a. It is what we hide away when others get too close.
            i. An ex-lover’s missing tooth.
            ii. Another’s removed testicle.
      b. It is that painful part that cannot heal.
            i. My father’s gray matter turned ghost forest.
            ii. My mother’s lost husband, a love cut short.
            iii. My blood, thick with the clotting gene—an inheritance.

13. It is the photo the doctors showed my mother: a brain split in two. They circled the right half and said All of this is gone.


Emily Lowe is currently an MFA candidate in Nonfiction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington where she was the 2018-19 Philip Gerard Fellow for most promising nonfiction. She is also currently Fiction Editor for Ecotone Magazine. Her work has appeared in River Teeth, HAD, and Emerge Lit among others.





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