The Half Woman

Summer, 2016 / No. 37

The day they found her, the out-of-business

antique shop owner set up a Dumpster

to clear out the old stock, ducking

police tape to discard eroded chairs.

Onlookers picked through the alley,

treasure seeking, ignored the line of cruisers.

A delicate rain and a delicate sun

competed for our attention.

The drunks on the corner said,

“She’s not one of ours.” The “she” was a part—

top half dropped one place, hips

and buttocks trundled off somewhere.

Soon, an hour north, a lone leg uncovered.

Silver ankle-bracelet heart: her only identity.

Friends and co-workers, whoever they were,

sat silent as cats in windows.

The camera crew smiled like it was Christmas.

That first week police came knocking

at every door, asking: “Can we look

in your closets? Will you show us your knives?”

All that fall, round the apartment I spun

like lightning banging the sky.

I fought with sleep like a cheating husband,

while rain exhaled her nameless song.

A pebbled dirt crept in and out

with each breath. At night the stars blurred,

anxious, wanting to move farther, farther

into the black, away from this street.

An arrest: casual as the corner store

cranking open its gate, unbending

its awning, snapping plastic ties from a bundle

of newspapers. Story of husband and wife.

made you look, the sign declared as a custom jeweller

renamed the antique place. Inside, gauzy girls

extended necks, wrists, for gold baubles.

Outside, a memory of torso and ankle

severed, disappeared with each downpour.

Leaves etched themselves into the sidewalk,

blood brown. Unchanged, we locked our door,

trudged to work in the shock of real air.