Disfiguration

by

She never paints herself covered in gold. The crash strips her naked. A sign-painter’s bright spilled dust gilds her bloody skin. She doesn’t die. She doesn’t heal. She hurts. She marries four years later at twenty-two, small and frail. He is forty-two, blunt and fat. He warns her he’s a womaniser. Her mother opposes; her father approves: her husband can afford her expensive medical care.

She is ambivalent about having a child. She has an abortion. They spend a frozen year in Detroit. Another abortion fails. She reluctantly continues the pregnancy, which ends in a hemorrhage. Lab coats.

The industrial and mechanical development of the United States interests her. Assembly lines. The behaviour of the wealthy enrages her. ‘It is terrifying to see the rich having parties day and night while thousands die of hunger.’ Machines.

Her paintings develop. The sharing of pain is an essential condition. The Detroit News headlines her interview “Wife of Master Mural Painter Gleefully Dabbles in Works of Art”. Appendectomy, two abortions, amputation of gangrenous toes. Lab coats.

 

 

The crash strips me naked. A surgeon’s spilled light gilds my bloody skin. I don’t die. I don’t heal. I hurt. I marry five years later at twenty-one, lush and strong. He is forty-one, tall and frail. My father consents; my mother resents: my husband can afford what she herself desires.

I am not ambivalent about having a child. I bear one prematurely. We spend two frozen years in Chicago. Another pregnancy ends in a hemorrhage. Lab coats.

The industrial and mechanical development of the United States envelops me. Assembly lines. The behaviour of the wealthy amazes me. It is shocking to see the rich having parties day and night while their children die of hunger. My husband sweats money beside me. Machines.

My sculptures develop. The sharing of pain is an essential condition. The Los Angeles Times headlines my interview “Wife of Master Financier Enjoys Attempts at Art”. Hysterectomy, lumpectomy, amputation of left breast. Lab coats.

 

 

Fight the power, others say, but I’m here to play. I keep my mutilations safe. An essential condition for dignity. From guns and baseball bats. From police. Assembly lines.

Sorted as I was sorted. Police won’t see me, a soul with a brief, beautiful body. Guns, baseball bats. Machines.

Sorted sliding into this world. A birth defect gushing through another birth defect’s birth defect. The operating theater’s always lit. Lab coats.

Pierced and torn until spent and harmed. Another. Another. Assembly lines.

A flawed fitting to shape and cut, a faulty mechanism moving toward a terrible crash. Machines.

Spilled fierce light. Blood stuck to bright dust. I don’t exist. I never have.

I have nothing to say and I am saying it.

Covered in gold.



Deirdra McAfee’s fiction has appeared in ‘Shenandoah,’ ‘Tupelo Quarterly,’ ‘The Georgia Review,’ and others. She co-edited and contributed to the literary anthology ‘Lock & Load: Armed Fiction’ (University of New Mexico Press, 2017), and received an MFA from the New School.

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