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CLASS PICTURE, MY GRANDMOTHER AS TEACHER, 1922 / Kathleen McGookey No knowing what she knows, no small, sad smile, just a steady gaze, her hands carefully placed on the arms of the wicker chair. Absolutely still for minutes the photographer clicked and muttered and fussed. She gazes out of the chair. She sees the first snow falling, dizzy patterns, and the big eighth-grade boys—she's afraid of them—running past. This day of expectation, a carriage ride, a white rabbit muff, and a certain dignity lost, a word, once said, that cannot be called back. Each time smoke rises from the black stove, she claps the lid down, then returns to the front of the classroom, something like fear in the back of her throat. Her hair smoothed back with a big navy bow. Some children she loves less than herself, and the boys would be better off in the fields, far from her, better caught in moonlight in hay, not half tamed in class, bodies spilling off their chairs. Her hair is smoke, the smoke that rose as her father's barn burned, and eight men on horseback formed a half circle around the blaze and simply watched. Slow music and tall buildings rise in her mind. She'd rather the photographer gone, the children too, and the books expectant in the empty room. 86 · The Missouri Review BELDORA BURRELL / Kathleen McGookey Five women, my five sisters, sit in court with Easter lilies on their laps. No one here watches me so I watch them. As a rule, we don't have such beautiful sunshine, but I have grief large as a body inside me, or its simple beginnings, the way white lilacs and lilies of the valley make me ache, how finally their absence is heartbreak, a rippled reflection on a platter: not the reflection silvering itself, but unexpected, it isn't real. To begin with, begin with then: the linen tablecloth to hem, the black car shining in the garage. The bed and the desk and the budget, and the queer leap just thinking it all. There was a clapboard house, a brother-in-law, and trips to Indiana with more canned chicken and jelly jars than I could count. The heart isn't the center of the body, but it's better if it isn't told. This is forward motion, I know, though it feels nothing like it. I've dyed my white silk uniform a dull dark red, so those people who talk will think of a mouth, a ruby red yard, the bloody hours filling a clock, so I can fall into calla lilies, and poinsettias tall as one-story houses to balance the bearable pleasures of living. The Missouri Review · 87 LEDA / Kathleen McGookey Still alone, holding her breath and watching night fall like in a Magritte painting: trees outlined in black and a thumbnail moon carved in inky-blue sky. Under water, fish see this gold moon, each wave with its own piece of sky, and six swans: two white, four grey. All the plums fallen from her trees, the fire died and weather very nearly out of control. Her arms clean and white and beginning to be strong. The six swans not her obsession, yet appeared daily. Her face grew pale: she would not wish another swan into a man. To begin with, she said, hands weren't worth waiting for. Then the problem of too much light; afterwards, the lake began to freeze, hundreds of black Canadian geese honked on ice, and the swans circled in smaller and smaller patterns. She let go of their silhouettes, of the silhouette of desire, of falling into the perfect temporary quiet of a mouth. The swans like angels, like god, like bodies on the sidewalk not quite covered by sheets. No comfort in wings: even a tulip's slight curve is obscene in wrong hands, even roads curving, trees leaning in strong winds, even that is wrong. Her hands smelled of garlic. Bonfires glowed and smoke hung in the trees. She waited to be lifted out of her body as she stood at the sink, dishes steaming. Already she saw broken...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 86-90
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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