She stumbles to the cornfield due for plowing under, crackling brown under sandaled feet with chilled toes, under woolish night with mothhole stars, her body raw beside dry stalks, why, she thinks, why does every surface her skin touches—every fingertip reaching for her armskin in the dark of a velvet movie theater or palm on her lower back in a crowded club—spark and rub her raw. Thinking how sad the corn’s been grown and given-up and still there’s some left that got missed, she figures this must be how the pebbles in a stream feel.
You look like you don’t have a mother, mine would say, frowning at my rumpled plaid school uniform skirt, my wrinkled white-ish blouse. And I understood it to mean I should shake them out good before dressing, should hang them on my closet doorknob or bedpost after school, should keep them as near to ironed-looking as I could, though the pleats could never crisp themselves, would instead widen with crosshatch yawns like a bored bedspread. She would sigh at me then drag her tote-bag to the public school, leaving me to take the Catholic bus. I would wear the skirt as many days as possible, until I spilled chocolate milk at lunch, or slid down the slide too fast into its mud-patch terminus, then I tossed it sheepishly into the laundry pile, used skirt number two. Until I taught myself the machine, learned laundry like a mother, knowing it was supposed to be enough that I had been given the plaid at all.
Kerry Trautman was born and raised in Ohio. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in various anthologies and journals, including Slippery Elm, Free State Review, The Fourth River, Thimble, Midwestern Gothic, and Gasconade Review. Her poetry books are Things That Come in Boxes (King Craft Press 2012,) To Have Hoped (Finishing Line Press 2015,) Artifacts (NightBallet Press 2017,) To be Nonchalantly Alive (Kelsay Books 2020,) and Marilyn: Self-Portrait, Oil on Canvas (Gutter Snob Books 2022.)