A Well-Regulated Society
“If our society were pure and well regulated, yes, then they would be seducers; but now, in my opinion, one may often consider them more as sisters of charity.” Vincent van Gogh
There is no room for you at the inn.
Or in the stable, for that matter,
where horses break the air with their woolen breaths
and shuffle in the mud.
When you were a child at the orphanage
a nun wore a pouch of coins at her waist
and it rattled like music when she walked.
Mornings, you wake under a bridge or behind a shed.
Stone on bone, pressed cheek to cheek in your sleep.
The walnut tree on the hill, the rough grass under you,
carve their lines of bark and blade
into your skin beside a fallen wood fence.
At the seashore you watch sky and sea merge,
the horizon blur. You are pregnant with your second child.
When the tide recedes
it leaves small bodies in the sand,
a shell, kelp, a rotten log.
Unlike water they stay still.
You are coral with no tentacles.
Men slide right off when finished with their anchor,
their brief respite.
Is it grace to give someone all
they want and nothing more?
You smoke a cigar in front of the fire.
Peel potatoes. Mend a bonnet.
These things fill hours, but your sorrow--
it is a bone in your body that connects to the others,
allows the skeleton to work.
You pose for him and you create edges, your body speaks its shape.
Rock and flesh, little else. A portrait made still life,
your body an apple on a table.
During dinner he cuts your daughter’s food into small portions for her.
You cannot look him in the eye.
Your daughter plays with beads on the wood floor.
She touches one and it rolls like a galloping wild animal
out of the room, out of sight,
as though it has been reborn
into a life we cannot see,
and have no reason to believe in.
This poem first appeared in Prairie Schooner.
Kassandra Montag grew up in rural Nebraska and now lives in Omaha with her husband and two sons. She holds a master’s degree in English Literature and her award-winning poetry and short fiction has appeared in journals and anthologies, including Midwestern Gothic, Nebraska Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and Mystery Weekly Magazine. After the Flood is her first novel.
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