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  • To the Peeping Tom Who Disguised Himself as an Oklahoma Night, and: Why I’ll Never Fear Getting Red Chili Oil in My Eye: Montage of My Mother in Finishing School
  • Anna Journey (bio)

To the Peeping Tom Who Disguised Himself as an Oklahoma Night

You’d have to morph into a Californiatwilight to find me here, to stare

through my bathroom’s cracked windowas you wear your scuba diver’s wet suit, your black

nylon mask with two slashed eye-slits. It’s late,and I don’t know why I watch these true-

crime shows alone, my husband out of townfor the weekend. To release the steam

after my shower, I have to hand-crank the windowopen a few inches, which is

the exact opportunity you confessyou look for: no venetian blinds, that one

lit window throwing a woman’snude form onto your personal porno screen. It seems

you’ve already been caught, though I can’t stopimagining your camouflage

midnighting the gap in my crackedbathroom window. No ventilation fan. And

although the glass opens onto my neighbor’s bamboo,even you, in your potbelly, could probably [End Page 388]

shimmy between the houses. But you’d makea lousy California night—your eye-slits

silver and hollow as grain silos, your round,Midwestern face: graceless and landlocked. I always

sleep with the front door triple-bolted when I’m the only one around. I hold

conversations with the cat. I dancewith my unfogging body doubled

in the mirrored medicine cabinet—the windowthrown open to the night. I know if you broke

out of prison, hitchhiked here, and slippedthrough the bamboo for a glimpse,

I’d recognize you. The wet air, the windowopen to the ocean’s salt. You walk wearing

a different darkness than mine, that wholeparched region on your back. [End Page 389]

Why I’ll Never Fear Getting Red Chili Oil in My Eye: Montage of My Mother in Finishing School

There’s a woman who uses a blue-handled seam ripper to workthrough her Persian’s gray belly knots, who learned to sip

her coffee black each humid morning at the Golden Goose.Columbus, Mississippi: 1960s. She said the fat girls floated

better during water ballet, that each day she wore the mostimmaculate nude panty hose to the class called Personal

Appearance, so her teacher wouldn’t subtract a pointfor each white run. Sometimes I look at my mother’s

brunette bob and watch her phantom flat-ironed lockslengthen to her hips, to skim the grainy ridge of her Gibson.

She strummed chords in her folk trio, the Guineveres, everysummer on the cocktail riverboat. Those harmonies

soaking the floodplains. Puddin’ singing alto,Cat the soprano, my mother the melody. When she pledged

her social club, freshman year, the girls had heard her reputationfor yarn spinning and so asked for a story. She rose,

told “Bluebeard” from beginning to endfor the roomful of Southern belles. Once, she played

the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland and savedthe panicked actor cast as the Mad Hatter [End Page 390]

just minutes before his scene. He’d gottena dab of red chili oil from a snack—backstage—

in his right eye. She sat him down in a canvas chair,unloosed a loop of her own dark hair—since his

was buzzed short—and poked it in his tear ductto suck out the sting, her follicles drawing

the burning oil. Her face in the local paperthat day now pasted in a scrapbook—that sly look.

There’s the woman who raised me, who tamesfires with just a few strands of hair. [End Page 391]

Anna Journey

anna journey is the author of the poetry collections Vulgar Remedies and If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting, which was selected by Thomas Lux for the National Poetry Series. She is an assistant professor of English at the University of Southern California.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2168-5541
Print ISSN
0038-4534
Pages
pp. 388-391
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-30
Open Access
No
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