Marilyn Krysl is the author of four collections of stories. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2000, O. Henry Prize Stories, and the Pushcart Prize Anthology, and in a number of journals, including The Atlantic, The Nation, and The New Republic. Marilyn has taught English as a Second Language in the People’s Republic of China and has served as Artist in Residence at the Center for Human Caring in Denver. She has worked as a volunteer for Peace Brigade International in Sri Lanka and has volunteered at the Kalighat Home for the Destitute and Dying administered by Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity in Calcutta. She currently volunteers with the Lost Boys of Sudan and with C-SAW, the Community of Sudanese and American Women. It is our pleasure to feature Marilyn’s work here. Look out for more of her poems in future posts, or you can read more of her work on her website.
I’ve rinsed Uma off, rubbed her with a rough towel. Now I lift the gown. But she holds up her palm— there’s a rip in the seam along the shoulder. By gesture I suggest we are in a place where almost nothing is whole cloth, and anyway, what’s a little rip, it’s nothing, and the gown sweet and clean. I hold it out to her, to smell.Well. Possibly a ripped gown is fine for me, I who have never had to fight for water, beg for food. Who come from a place, where, when one gown goes, there’s another, a place of illusion. And who am I, rich bitch, to think Uma should take what I offer. Uma knows there are gowns without rips: she wants one. She who consumes no solid food, is incontinent, too weak to sit up. I climb to the roof, wander clean sheets, sarongs, find a gown of whole cloth. Go down, offer it for Uma’s inspection. Thus my Lieutenant chalks up one more victory, instructs me in poverty’s militancy. Without armor, you turn warrior. I confess— bless her—I love her brass.