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White Plate Painted with More White by Fanny Howe

White Plate Painted with More White by Fanny Howe

White Plate Painted with More White by Fanny Howe

There was no mist on such an icy shore. The coast was a crust you could see at once glance, and a hard wind barreled over the sandy soil. Rusty war crosses tipped northeast. She was racing aimlessly, purposefully then, away from the path she had tracked to the rocks.

A forgotten name moves in such fitful waves, engineered like tumbleweed across the mental floor.

Fringed and furred with frost, the white waves rushed in and out of each other, and violent crests shot brine into the air, as if shucking off excess emotion. At night the funeral wreath blew down to the sea–long, yellows and pinks, birthday colors–lashed to the slimy black rocks. A dream smell of salt and acid, like the inside of a mouth, and I was down in it. Beach houses were battened shut, short pastels with torn screens, and always on my left, the heave of the night sea.

Barnacles bit my bare feet and knees, and greasy seaweed made me drop into tiny pools of kelp. Soft sand in those wet shapes there. This was the other side of the cemetery that domiciled on the top of a gnawed cliff.

The baby might have been the least worthy of earth’s materials, lacking hardiness as she did. It lay with its ankles crossed and its arms spread wide, like one who lives by her feelings. Nostrils are always placed in front of the mouth, but this baby’s lips, at the service of gum, tooth, and voice, protruded pink and soft. The application of her small fist to her lips made her, in all cases, the object of maternal desire.

No one could doubt that this was a model something. Every part of her seemed extra, more than intention could handle, and raised the question: Is the body made to fit the needs of the soul, or vice versa? Since her heart was a seething fountain of blood, people longed to lean their ears to her chest to hear those sinews at work. Her damp skin, soft as a rose petal, was sweet to the cheek. And when she smiled, the world was all confection and air.

They surmised that she had floated from the stars in the navy blue sky. Like rain at sea and no one to see, the coherence of these events and conjectures was never going to be accounted for. Now nestled in sea heather, the baby will, later, learn her tens and alphabets on a pillow in bed. And will sometimes wonder: Little word, who said me? Am I owned or free?

the lives of a spirit/glasstown: where something got broken by Fanny Howe is now available from Nightboat Books.

Richard Chiem

About The Author

Richard Chiem

Richard Chiem is the author of You Private Person. He lives in Seattle, WA.

Real Pants

Good hair, crooked gait

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