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The Forum Prize

Denise K. James

Stephanie 1230 am: List

Stephanie, 12:30 a.m.

This is the time, short as it is,
no one says my name, no one is there
to peel fruit for. I think about being small,
my body my own, not caving open
to a husband at night, a child
during labor. Once, I didn’t need to raise
my voice. Each morning I would coo
at mountain birds, watch them digest
small creatures the way earth’s
belly takes in the dead.
Evenings I could sleep, my stocking
feet padding down our wooden hallways
early, no desperation for silence.
My mother’s long, noiseless hair
would drop out of pins and somehow
never make a sound. She knew the way
to glide past my father, turn her slender
hips to ease them in between corners.
How did they build the quiet, make it last?
Now I build it every night, watch
it tumble like a flute shatters. Then
each dawn I rise and see the flat landscape.

Stephanie 1230 am: Text
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