What a friend said to my face one afternoon,
at my own kitchen table
–with a line from Lynn Emanuel
Should’ve been you.
She turned a butter knife between thumb and forefinger,
laid it down, then sipped her coffee—
You’re the one with the messed-up female genes, after all.
From my dead mother, true, who got them from hers.
No doubt those ill-fated ladies gifted them to me.
Only a matter of time, I always half-joked—
Should’ve been you, been thinking that for a while now—
Said this in her assassin’s voice
she used mostly for stories about her boss.
So, how was I such a beacon of health?
While she, with a child and a clean family history,
succumbed to the scalpel that sliced
her woman-self away. Said all this
while pointing to the flat balloon of her blouse.
Wasn’t supposed to happen to me—
She was just past forty, parents still alive.
Showed me an old photo where she’s dancing with friends.
Party Girl. That was her nickname, she said, her voice trailing off.
How she missed those days! Who wouldn’t want them back?
Or the young body so perfect in red.
She was playing with the knife again.
So, what do you know of fear?
She cut her gaze at me.
Enough, I said
and raised the flat of my hand against the blade of her curse.
Enough, that when
she got up and left, I locked the door
while the blood in me rose high, sloshing in my skull that whole afternoon
like a lake behind a dam.
Maria Rouphail‘s third poetry collection, “All the Way to China,” is due out in 2022 from Finishing Line Press.