Wendy Taylor Carlisle The 2River View, 7.4 (Summer 2003)

The Fairest

Below skin-deep in the steadiness of organs,
in the upright bones, where all solid, perfect cells tick on,

the widow’s heart, that little zip lock of gore, fills and empties,
regular as a metronome, only a wisp of memory stirs.

Nothing moves her but her chestnut hair, her own pale cheeks.
She hums; she ignores the darkness somewhere east

of the lace that disappears between her thighs, attends only to the mirror
that flatters her, watching for signs of that other,

too-fragile face. She remembers her husband complained
of loneliness and fear, as if she could cure him. For him, she puts on

ugly clothes that suggest loss. For her reflection, she wears crepe de chine.
She hardly recalls the stepdaughter growing up in a fruit orchard.

In her husband’s memory, she claims to be stricken.
But she cannot rewrite the fairy tale—evil step-ways in the autumn

woods, a witch disguise, are caught in the glass where she displays
the apple cheek, the satin skin, the flat black empty eye.

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