LU MFA

The MFA in Writing Program at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri

Beth Mead

Beth Mead is a Professor of Writing and Director of the MFA in Writing Program at Lindenwood University. Beth received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She won the Jim Haba Poetry Award and was an Honorable Mention in the River Styx MicroFiction Contest. Her work has appeared in NoiseMedium, Cuivre River VI, Fiction Weekly, Mid Rivers ReviewUntamed Ink and elsewhere. Her story collection Dancing Madly is forthcoming from Adelaide Books in July 2019.   

The Former Mrs. Jonathan Rothdale

Beth Mead 

This is fine. This all will be fine. Perhaps now
I'll stand, arms open, on a rainy Paris day, thinking of things
that are not you.

You never wanted to see Paris, I know. You only said that
to make me want you.

Now I think I will take a class, a figure-drawing class,
spend hours studying bodies at arm's reach,
pencil their curves and lines, touch them in a way
you never touched me.

You told me I could not draw. I know, I'm no artist,
I realize that.

I feel fine. Like the fine in fine wine. Or the fine of fine china,
see-through fragile, yet solid enough to hold something
within it.

When you held me, it was after I sucked you dry, before you slept
heavily in dreams of others.

I look at a woman on the sidewalk now, and I see her
like you must have--how her hip shapes the skirt, how the skirt slips
between her legs.

I think now I will change my name. Not just my last name, that name
that is you, but my first name. I will be Scarlet, I think. Or maybe Violet.
I know I will be a color.

When you gave me your name, I wrapped myself inside it like an egg
in tissue paper. I drew the curve of the R for hours.

-Winner, 2010 Jim Haba Poetry Award 

-previously published in Mid Rivers Review Volume 11, 2010 

 

the things that break us right open

Beth Mead

You tear apart an orange, set the pulpy pieces on your tongue, and the smell is like being seven years old in that sun-splattered kitchen, your mom peeling off the rind for you and laying out the slices on a napkin, and you’d suck out the juice and give her big wet smiles. Mom was tuna on crackers, sitcoms, red-tag-sale dresses. She’d look at you like you were everything that mattered.

You drive to work and something about the road, the way it rattles your car, makes you want to take the wrong exit, to go someplace else that’s smoother and better and not-here. Your fingertips still smell like orange. If you weren’t in the left lane, maybe, and there weren’t so many cars around you, blocking you from getting there, you’d exit right now.

At the office, the girl with the wax-doll face calls you sir and looks down at her feet when you speak. You wish she’d look up because you like to collect eyes, memories of eyes, hold them loosely in your pocket like rainy-day change. Your father’s eyes were doughy, a peanut-shell beige. Soft and blank. You rub your thumb across the memory of them and feel like his boy again, muddy, pouting. Your ex-wife’s eyes were milky blue. Your first girlfriend had eyes like glass, slick with light.

You go home. The stillness feels familiar but wrong. You slide off your shoes, turn on the TV, turn off the TV.

You tear apart an orange.

 -previously published in Mid Rivers Review Volume 11, 2010

 

Sketching Venice

Beth Mead

In fourth grade, Janie would chase the boys, back them into corners. Kiss their pale necks. From across the playground I'd watch, flushed and trying to laugh, afraid to breathe.

At thirteen, faces dewy, hair like glass, we dreamed of running away, going to Venice. Janie spoke of gondolas, canals, serenades. I filled notebooks with sketches of our trip, of us.

In high school, boys surrounded Janie. Later, our legs tucked under us on her bed, we’d laugh about them. How weak they were. How easy to control, with a smile, with a touch. Then senior year, Janie started seeing Chuck. He was different, she whispered to me. Her first time. I put away my drawings of Venice. She’d talk for hours about Chuck’s thick fingers, the way they felt on her skin. I watched her mouth as she spoke.

When they married at twenty, I wore ice-pink lace. Janie said “I do” with such force I couldn’t stop shaking. At the reception, she hugged me so close I felt like part of her skin.

The night Chuck hit too hard, I held her, brought her cool cloths. I pressed my lips against her forehead, her cheek, her mouth. Again and again. Her hair smelled of ripe tangerines.

But she was his.

After that night she stopped calling. Thirty-eight years of nothing. Then I saw it, the announcement about Chuck’s funeral. I didn’t go. I couldn’t. But two months passed, long enough, I thought, and now it was time.

I knock on the door.

Let’s go to Venice, I’ll say. Let’s finally go.

No answer. I knock harder.

Yes, she’ll say. And I’ve missed you and I’ve always loved you so.

She opens the door.

“Janie,” I say, the name like heat on my tongue.

“Yes?” Her skin is dull now, her hair almost white.

“Janie, it’s me.”

Janie squints, colorless eyes trying to focus on my face.

“It’s Olivia.”

She steps back, closes the door.

I knock again.

Her voice, wavering, old, calls out to me: “Go home, Olivia. Go home.”

I keep knocking. I say her name over and over. I want to kick down the door. To shake her until she weeps. So many years spent waiting to be hers again. Too many years.

Nothing.

I reach into my pocketbook, pull out a black marker. Draw on the clean white door of her home, the home she’d shared with someone else, someone who wasn’t me, could never be me. I draw a gondola carrying two silhouettes, dark shapes so close together they seem like one body.

I will stand here too long, staring at the door, shaking. I’ll feel the weight of my legs, the ache behind my eyes. But then I will turn away, walk to my car, start the engine. Start to breathe.

At thirteen, Janie would always say, “We can do anything, Olivia.” I’d laugh, covering my mouth with my hand. “We own the world,” she’d say. “It’s waiting for us.”

-Honorable Mention, River Styx MicroFiction Contest, 2007

-previously published in Mid Rivers Review Volume 11, 2010

 

 

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