Ashes on Paper
It was the morning I caught my best dress and pulled a red silk thread when I heard of your death. My dreams smelled of musty white roses the night before. Your last wife had you cremated, so she could keep you all to herself in her hourglass of sand. But I buried your ashes in the flickering dim DNA staircase I eternally descend, unwinding the sepia film of you.
Of course she killed you—with her cooking and her nagging. It was practical. Insurance policies and investments. Did she find the nude black and white photographs in the consciousness of your darkroom? Or did she find the carefully flung stocking with the serpentine run, snagged by the hasty brush of your thumb?
Even the stray cat outlived you. Weeds went wild and the grass never got watered or mowed. Pomegranates fell out of your trees, rotted with dried umbilicus flower cords. Then she had the old lady across the street, whom you hated, sell your house right out from under your dead man’s feet. All I can do is throw ashes on paper.
—First appeared in PANK, 2009
Black and White Photographs
There is a strange man outside parked in a car, and he's gazing at my house. On a whim, I go out alone in a bathrobe. I wave him over and talk. He used to live here. I remember his name from neighborhood stories: divorced twenty-some years ago.
After moving in, we found a cache of black and white photographs. I wanted to return them, but she left them in the attic. Wedding pictures from the sixties: her wearing pearls, smiling holding a cat; baby girls; a yellowed newspaper clipping of their wedding: him in an army uniform all somewhere lost in a box in our laundry room.
I invited him in to look for the photographs and didn’t know if I could find them. He was in a trance and looked out the French doors into our back pasture. He built the tree house in our Chinaberry. Outside, he touched their family names he had poured together in concrete.
His wife’s funeral is tomorrow. I didn't recognize her name in the obituary earlier in the morning. I couldn’t find the pictures of her holding the cat. I couldn’t tell him that. He held the pictures in his shaking hands, shuffling through telling me about their mysteries. Tonight he will take them for her viewing to show his daughters.
—First appeared in Dogzplot, 2009
Alexandra Isacson is a graduate of Arizona State University and lives in the Phoenix area. She loves gardens and art. Her work appears or is forthcoming in >kill author, Emprise Review, decomP, Medulla Review, among others. Visit her at alexandraisacson.com.
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