Woman with her Throat Slit

Hello,
Please confirm if you are still alive, because two gentle men worked into my office this morning to claim your Contract funds in our custody. I got your email from one of the files of those who have not been paid for the Contract you or your Parents did. If you are still alive please confirm with your full contact details ASAP  for you to receive your payment.
–Derek Langston

Dear Mr. Langston,
Your email was uncannily timely. Yes, I’m alive,
thanks for asking, if a bit stricken. Alive, though I’ve
lost that sweet taste in my mouth of…what? That tang
of everlastingness in the transitory, like a note of rust
in gulped water? My breasts feel like hand grenades
about to explode, Mr. Langston. A heaviness in my
gut suggests someone cut me open as I slept,
and filled my body’s pockets with rocks. The sight
of my face is a disquieting surprise, like stepping
on a snake. Mr. Langston, which I’m aware
isn’t your real name, I’m in mourning. Between
the teeth of a disconcerting grief. Wouldn’t you say
the brain’s crenulations rival the topography
of the Himalayas? Don’t you agree that while
the feet seem meek, they harbor darker knowledge
than the easy-to-please hands? By praising parts
of the body I’m hoping to call them home, or
at least to locate myself. One grows tired of reciprocity,
of nodding, of fixing one’s hair. One snarls in one’s
sleep. The body leaks secrets.

Someone I loved decades ago, with the full force
of what I was then, died, a suicide, in his parked car.
This news appeared in a paper to which I subscribe
and which I read during morning coffee. I haven’t
spoken to him in thirty years, though I probably
dreamed of him weekly during that time. Back
in our day I craved praise, declarations. We both
did things of which we were later ashamed. He came
to see me as a trap and was thus right to flee. Still.
I could not swallow my low acid coffee or anything
else today after reading his obituary, squinting at
its grainy picture. Someone, I felt, not for the first
time in my life, had drawn a knife lightly across my
neck. Then came your fake email.

As for the payment you mention, please keep it,
Mr. Langston. Easy for me to be free with
fictitious money. You’re an internet swindler.
How do you feel about that? I imagine you have
your reasons. I don’t want to be awake any
longer this evening, reduced to writing a thief
who doesn’t have the guts to case neighborhoods
and jimmy windows and instead siphons cash
from the gullible across a faceless international
netscape. Mr. Langston, did you know: growing
old is violent, like being kidnapped, like waking up
to find your throat slit while you’re still alive and
able to burble words. And getting elderly has not
quieted the feral girl who’s crouched inside me
for as long as I can recall. To most people I’ve
become about as interesting as a papercut.
But I digress.

I think I’ll take a sleeping pill to staunch
consciousness for a while. So much can spill
out of a woman whose throat has been slit.
Gasps, demands, viola solos. I promised my
doctor not to talk like this anymore. But I can
speak to you any way I like, can’t I Mr. Langston?
I promised the doc to be more vulnerable and honest,
though I’ve lost the knack for honesty if ever I had it.
Perhaps you have similar feelings? I promised the doc
to stop telling that sordid, self-congratulatory
fairy tale written on my underwear, to quit insisting
on the validity of that narrational panty-stain the shape
of an island of which I crowned myself queen. I
promised her to abandon my unhealthy former self
and forge a new one, complete with a fresh set of legends
about my backstory. I just need someone to hand me
my styrofoam sword and cardboard shield, to drape
my bathtowel cloak gently about my shoulders.
The thing about a woman with her throat slit is how
much more can pour out of her now. We females
being just a heap of seeping orifices with the power
to drown, one more perforation just cranks up
the music. Perhaps you feel I’m drowning you now,
if you’ve persisted in reading this. I hope so. Even
when she’s lying on the floor, trying to sleep,
her arms budding into Venus flytraps and her legs
elongating into cutlery, you can’t shut a woman with
her throat cut up. Do you think, Mr. Langston, that
either of us will ever regain that sweet taste in our
mouths? Do you regret losing it too? If I prayed I
would pray not to dream about you.

Amy Gerstler

Amy Gerstler

Amy Gerstler won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1990. Her most recent book of poems is Scattered at Sea (Penguin, 2015). She currently teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of California at Irvine.
Amy Gerstler

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Author: Amy Gerstler

Amy Gerstler won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1990. Her most recent book of poems is Scattered at Sea (Penguin, 2015). She currently teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of California at Irvine.