William Cody Maher
My name is Irina. My husband is dead. I am expecting our child.
The dust is all everyone talks about in the square. I refuse to wash it from my skin. I go brazenly past the police through the town. I am layered in dust. It is my mourning gown.
The doctors say the nausea is common. . . and that the pain will go away. I laugh at them. I don’t want it to.
All day walking through the town I felt nothing. Saw nothing. I’m dead. . . I said out loud and just when I said the words I felt the child kicking in my stomach.
The phone rings. . . but I’m afraid to answer it. I’m afraid it might be you, and I know you’re dead.
I couldn’t believe it. At the train station the police were loading all of our children onto the trains and we were standing helplessly by doing nothing. A man was running crazy to a window with a handful of candy he gave to his daughter. The children were screaming and trying to jump out. Our police. . . our sons. . . you would not have allowed it. . . were throwing children back into the train. I read the next day in the paper how calm and ordered the evacuation went, but it’s not true. My tears testify it was not.
I looked out the window over the rooftops. It was raining and men were making repairs on scaffolding. I panicked. I thought I saw you walking on the scaffold and it was on fire. It was raining harder and harder and you were in flames and still desperately trying to repair the roof, and it was our house.
In the nightmare of our burning house there was an elevator on the outside and it quietly lowered down screaming people and rose up quiet ones.
I walked to the playground today. I don’t know why. I was sure if I tried hard enough I could return everything to how it was. Yevgeny tried to pull me back.
He says I’m crazy. When I laugh he gets so afraid he runs back into his store.
Today, I really thought I heard children playing. I was so convinced; I brought the last pieces of candy. When I got there, I found only dogs scratching in the dust.
I threw the candy at them, screaming to take my tears as a message back to God.
Today I received your letter. It was dated twice. It didn’t have the correct postage on it so it was sent back. I know how much you must have suffered having to send it again, knowing how much I suffer waiting to hear from you. How could an accident like that have happened? I put the gloves you asked for in the mail. When Sophia at the post asked what was in the package I told her, and she stared at me as if I were mad, when she saw the address was to you.
I had a nightmare. I was lying in the street in front of our house. The rain was pouring down and I held my mouth open to you, desperately drinking.
I know I’m only keeping a vigil ’til you come through the door. I’ll have cooked something nice for you and you’ll have so many stories to tell me I won’t have time to set the table, I’ll be so lost in your arms
You would have saluted none of them. . .
This morning I woke to a pain in my breasts and out of my nipples something yellow dripping out
The clouds are moving like filthy armies, they are moving like dirty blood through veins they are moving silently like trains outside our window and I am cursing them as silently as I write these words to you, I curse their movement across the sky. I have lived to see the day I cursed what I once loved go by.
Today, the postman knocked on the door with a letter from you. When I opened the door the letter was just lying face down and I saw him running down the street
As a child my grandfather talked and talked of the twenty million that had died so that I could be born and all I wanted to do was to go out and play
To live is a verb stolen from life to escape death
Why should I lie to them? You’ve never been late from work. At the gates of the plant I stood waiting for you. You would have saluted no one at the end
You didn’t understand that when I listened to music it was like preparing to live without you
I’m alone. What a farce it is to greet people at the market pretending it’s normal that our children aren’t with us
I told the doctors if the child is born a monster I’ll buy a chain and drag it through the streets, proud I was able to have anything born out of so many lies
I sent my early letters in a dream to the newspapers. I got back a response to try my hand at writing short stories. A man in the dream standing in front of the gates of the plant where you worked said I had talent, that anyone who could make up such a story should be a writer, like Tolstoy, he said.
I heard from Anna there is a new city being constructed. We will be re-united with our children. I said I would wait for you to come home first from work. There would be time for building new cities after you’ve had your dinner. You should have seen the expression on her face
I remember you had friendly relations with Fodor, but ever since that incident at the train station I can’t look a police officer or soldier in the face without spitting at them, and my mouth is even too dry for that
Freda, you remember, the wife of the tram operator, has had her child. People gossip. They say it was born dead or that it was taken away from her.
They even say she killed it herself. I know, it’s not allowed, these thoughts.
Yesterday, I ran into Andre the tram operator. His line has been discontinued.
He sat on the front steps of the station staring at his empty seats. When I passed and waved at him he didn’t even recognize me, after all the exams we studied for together in our early school days
I come to you as the words of a song to sing our children to sleep. . .
This morning a fight broke out in the station when a woman refused to put her child on the train. For a moment I thought she had won because the police didn’t know what to do. At the last moment a man rushed out of the crowd and tearing the child from her arms he threw it through a window into the train. I couldn’t watch anymore. I had to leave. I’ll wake up any minute now. I keep repeating that like a prayer.
Last night not even with the pills could I sleep. Remember that book of poems you bought for me, with how much excitement we read the forbidden lines. If I could only say what I feel for you there would be no book to hide it in, no paper could hold the words
I turned on the radio by mistake. I had just woken up and I thought I heard you in the kitchen. The voice was praising you and the others like you and in the same breath talking about our future as if you were still part of it. I never hated anything as much as that voice. I didn’t know I could hate so much and just feeling my own hate, I was so ashamed I didn’t believe in anything anymore.
If anyone should find these words they will know more about you than about me
You see, you can already hear that I’ve given up on you when I talk of people finding these words
Yesterday I broke a toy Guatemalan unicorn a woman brought to me long ago from an educational exchange program. I spent the whole afternoon trying to put it back together
I woke up this morning with scrapes down my thighs, sores and blood and skin in my fingernails
I found some old crates of forbidden books on the burning of witches. I had to laugh, tasting the ashes on my own tongue
An accident, it’s impossible really. I loosened your collar and rubbed the dust from your throat. Is that a way to end my life with you?
It’s silly but I keep a Spanish dictionary on my desk and now and then I look up the words. The tender words I have for you I speak in Spanish
This morning I dreamed I was carried on the back of a unicorn. Which way to life I asked and it turned and smiled back at me
I’m laying out strips of your soul to dry in the dust
A good comrade, we both laughed
Taking our degrees in engineering and science. . .
I awakened on your side of the bed and when I turned to where I lay before you left
I saw only a small pool of blood
I put on that beautiful white dress you gave me and paraded down the streets in the rain, because you gave it to me and now I was returning it back to you. You, the rain.
It wasn’t from God I stole these beautiful words, but from you
I looked up from my work desk and I saw smoke from a chimney, and with horror I wondered what was burning
It’s strange. You have to wait in line now. A week ago you would have been thrown into jail for thinking it. Is it my will or is it my fear that gave birth to this
I talked Andre into taking me out to where we had our meadow. Workmen in metal hats and masks were digging up the ground. I couldn’t get past the guards. I asked one what was going on. He said that all the land here is destroyed. I didn’t understand.
Remember the future we talked about. . . Underneath the words there was nothing but dirt and worms, my darling.
Today, planes began dropping food. I didn’t even bother. I sat in bed all day eating the fruit preserves from our garden. They say they’re poisoned. What isn’t?
I don’t regret the books that were burned years ago. We read them together
Remember the night you played my favorite records over and over again and I ran to the phonograph and like a little girl fell on your knees when I heard that simple Finnish song you loved so much
I would kill myself but I can’t kill them
I wash and iron your clothes every day. It is my only religion
I have never written a letter to you. Remember, you always told me it was too painful to hear my words and be so far away and not able to hold me. Now I write every day and I’m the one feeling the pain, because forgive me for saying this, but you don’t feel anything any longer, do you. . .
Today I presented my youngest with a cap. The children at school laugh at her because she is losing her hair. My hair remains beautiful to laugh at me
I go to the playground now with East of Eden. I tear out each page after I’ve read it. I know the lines by heart. I remember how much you wanted to see the film with James Dean. It’s funny how you struggle afterwards to find a history for both of us. I even make things up now. How easily I forgive you the pain you caused me. I embroider our wounds together. You know, tears sometimes have more life in them than blood
Fearful whispers in the streets. There’s been an accident
The word for cloud in Spanish is Nube. It sounds like the name of a woman doesn’t it. . . The name of a beautiful dead woman
I don’t believe or not believe in God. Let him decide if it’s life or death he wants
To everything beautiful I said I’ve had enough. . . Now go away
The sky, I thought, someone should repair it
Death is the greatest lover. . .
This afternoon while eating I found an insect in my bread. It fell on its back and tried to escape. I let it. You were dead and it was still alive
I loosened your collar when you lowered your mouth to kiss me. I laughingly turned away. How could I ever have turned away from you?
So here you have the imaginary words of an imaginary Russian woman who had an imaginary husband and imaginary children who lived in an imaginary city and had imaginary hopes and imaginary loves and cried imaginary tears in this imaginary land. . .
I am your bride of dust and you’re my groom of rain
Waiting at the gate as you liked me to. . .
Sandwiches to take with you
I woke from a nightmare where I saw a nurse tear off her mask and gloves and reach down into the wound of a woman on a stretcher and kiss it
I had a nightmare. A famous writer was signing autographs and people were crowded around him and as a camera closed in on his face he looked up and with a trembling voice he said. . . I can’t remember. . . I’m sorry. . . I can’t remember
I was in the hospital for a routine check a week ago and they told me I was expecting another child. I said no, and then I smashed my own mouth, I’d never said no to life before. I think I’m losing my mind
I don’t take the pills. I crush them into powder and yesterday when I baked the bread for the birds I sprinkled the powder inside
To keep out the rain to keep out the dust to keep out the truth
Caught in a trap of burning wires, my nerves torn open, desperate to utter the first word. . .