She is the woman doing cartwheels in the living room. Her hands press into carpet, collect pebbles and crumbs. Her legs pinwheel the air. The windows clatter and expand, tissue paper in the wind or mirrors crowding around her, waiting to see her fall.
When she was young, she tore lettuce rather than cut it. She said if you used a knife it would bruise too soon. That was a long time before, and she was a blonde then. All the men saw her hips swish when she walked by.
She likes the way the walls swirl before her, the lining in the wood panels their own veins, dizzied and open, draining onto the baseboards, then the floor, where she focuses her eyes when she spins.
The woman doing cartwheels in the living room sees faces at night. They are smudged with dirt and mouth words she cannot hear. The faces remind her of the children she never wanted to have, the eyes she finds in her dreams, the small hands pulling at her shirt sleeves. She covers her head with a blanket.
She thinks of the black-lit rooms, the empty bed down the hall. Her hands ache. Her feet are scratched and scarred from slipping on tile. Her mind is a snowy highway with dull lights. She cannot remember how to stop skidding.
She is the woman doing cartwheels in the living room. Her jean shorts are frayed at the edges. Her shirt falls, exposing fire scars on her belly from pregnancy. She tucks in her shirt and it comes undone, and she cannot hide it from the world.
— Mary Stone
Mary Stone’s poetry and prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Amoskeag, Pennsylvania Literary Review, Lingerpost, FutureCycle Poetry, Flint Hills Review, and other fine journals. In 2011 she received the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award in Poetry. Currently, she is an MFA student at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where she teaches English classes and serves as a reader for Beecher’s and the Blue Island Review.