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  • Reading Madame Bovary
  • Esther Lin (bio)

That afternoon, Bovary wentto the apothecary's closet,

fumbling for arsenicto draw out her black bile,

make her mouth a hole.She waited hours for the worst of it,

the shearing of her dark lovely hair—though for many years

my mother's hair was not lovelybut thin as sagebrush

an autumn fire had passed over.There are mothers who demand

a price. Youth. Sex organswithout cancer. She said,

You can't know how bad it is.Bovary's daughter worked in a satin mill.

There is no talk of her beauty.To say my mother was not beautiful

when she died is merciless.Today I am without mercy. [End Page 84]

Esther Lin

Esther Lin was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and lived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant for twenty-one years. She is a 2020 Writing Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and is the author of The Ghost Wife, winner of the 2017 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Indiana Review, The Missouri Review Online, Pleiades, Triquarterly, and elsewhere. A 2017–2019 Wallace Stegner Fellow, she currently organizes for the Undocupoets.



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