I: Incorrect Restless, restless, hold your breastless torso to the wall above the floorless hallway. We gouged out tiles, and the flies come out to shiver, nesting in the eaves, despised and fruitless, craning, storking over meadows, round the hidden polished surface surrounded by birches, a table top, a flat oak. Deer drink here. Ruthless, crest-rising, hold your thin neck, king fisher, feathers blue, you swoop, stretch your neck to snap, and tighten the horsehair, scrape the bow over the strings, who would have thought – such music from a horse, a sour-faced gloat: aren’t you in need of a husband here? Leave his name on the statutes, in the register, regiment of men who shall live here as long as they live. (Let Talleyrand give us a home, let us wear our tiaras.) We make separatist gardens, but the husbands – stay in the eaves, in the rushes, in the high roof of the barn. The cat climbs, she sways on the smallest branch, she leaps onto the sill. She will bite their throats and bring them to the notary. II: Please Turn to face the wall so I can notify the radiologist. Drive to the hospital with the hand brake on. Show your passport so they know you are a woman. Sweep the red flaw. Please do not let the Lektorin lekt. Do not let her correct this. Do not lecture my posture, I am sitting like this on purpose, with a dolphin on my teacup and two Victorian women on an oily tea-stained sky. Do not rectify this. The birches are proof, the birches are proof enough. III: Correct Portion the women so they let you pass. Pass the port, floor her when she dances her kung fu moves, read the sweeping glances as assent. It is as if I am looking over my own shoulder. Straighten me out, push my knees together, please. Lecture me to make my lashes ladylike. Return me to the hospital I came from. Show me a picture of my lungs with my little heart beating. Tell me the terrifying parts. How to say yes. How to make sure I never refuse. Banish the cat, the separatists, the kingfisher. Bring glossy lead-based paint. Seal the floors, double-glaze the windows. Smother the draughts, the dolphin. Lock the car. Tell me the terrifying parts! Let the Lektorin come here, let her instruct. Let no one hide in the eaves, tell that dejected man to be a husband and tell me to be a woman, with a portion, with the jewels of Talleyrand. (He lost his castle, she spent his money on aperitifs.) Interrupt me, collect my words and bury them under the magnolia: I have spoken enough, and it was not correct.
Iron and ice would break my face, I felt my body fall and shake remorse from all the officers and decent working mothers. What was the bird which wheeled above? I thought it was the stork who brought rich pickings to my siblings on the Monday I was born. With my long arms I tried too many times to hide the horse which galloped in my chest: it seemed like pride to ride up high without a care, without a saddle or a stirrup or a sorrow and to fly through borrowed air which didn’t seem to have a price. If I could ever find a foreign feather perhaps I’d dare to weave new plumage for my crest, unfurl my best belated dance along the swept porches and rise up haughtily in swerving bends and switches, curved like birch twigs, strong as willow whips. I dreamt I leapt there once, and all the portly gossips stared, and all the cautious small-lipped husbands bit their purses. I dreamt I made a spectacle of myself. But real is royal here, a righteous censor who cannot bear those dances of dissent. I fell so straight too fast to speak and sped down hard to meet the street and hit the stumps of iron lined up, sawn off long ago, for a war. Ice sprang apart as if polite, to let me fall, to let my jaw be washed in muddy water. All shattered, all crushed by a pestle of desire, chiseled rough. I was a daughter, finally, not dead, and yet still not alive.
Lucy Duggan is a writer and translator based in rural Brandenburg, in eastern Germany.
Currently, she is working on a queer family saga set in a ruined manor house. She is the
author of Tendrils (Cambridge: Peer Press, 2014), a novel about long-lost enemies. Her
miniature stories can be found at www.tinystori.es.