Roxanne Carter



the telephone receiver sticking to her ear, polishing her ear. she will always be blamed for calling, for breaking the line. let me in, she says. a message isn’t much good without any ink. inhaling the atmosphere through the phone, describing things like furniture, speaking about a position. she will not repeat a word heard in the home.

darling could be honest, could slide the bolt in the lock and check every room, saying she saw nothing at all. oh look at my hair, she’ll say instead, curls revolving as she spins around silently, gliding down the hallway. she refuses strategic lighting, adjusts the volume and then the frame. i borrowed it to look at it, that was all. i meant for you to have it, she says. she reaches into her coat, going through her pockets, turning the lining inside out. still nothing, receipts and seashells.

be a lamb and let her in, duchess says. darling walks the worn path two steps at a time. oh kitten, you can’t be ordinary, darling says.

darling has other things to do. once the dishes are washed, the meals are planned, the beds are made, the rooms are dusted, the plants are watered, she will look after her make-up, dress her hair, put on a skirt, sweater and shoes. still there is the ironing, the cleaning, the mending and the polishing left to be done. lines to memorize. at the beginning, she dawdles in the background, rolling her script, her telescope.

at the beginning, she could the dark coming up the hill.


darling is an idle girl. she never really knows what to do. she takes her chances with garlands of sentences, draping them around her neck: about the length that makes it work, that starts to bring everything together. duchess despaired and told darling to destroy it, but darling found that lists can be useful, and interesting. she is useful herself. she never stops watching, looking excessively for nonsense. the crumbles of red-worn vermilion torn into shreds and abandoned on the windowsill delight her. darling doesn’t care how it looks; it is the little vanities, both simple and innocent, that matter.

darling gradually rises. the water is boiling, a whistle won’t stop. she cries, shut it, shut it off! it is too beautiful, too beautiful…

walking to the edge of the sea is not worth doing, duchess says. she could have destroyed it; she does not really admire the view. she sees herself as the lady of the house. the vast majority of the sea and forest threaten her. she is often busy cultivating tea sets, observing the waves arrive one by one from her window. the gulls circling round and round, following without being called. scorning their fame, they repeat a gruesome, ordinary path, tracking crustaceans gliding secretly under the sea. duchess wants the day to be quick, to be over. all the horrors she is able to see happen naturally.

darling is not anywhere in the house. she has learned her accidents.

duchess goes out one door and comes in another. she had gone through a slightly snaky, undulating hallway.

darling plays dead, pulling the curtains closed to cover her room from daylight. a punch bowl sun, striations of gold, pink and white, gilded hot and flashing. she’d walked at sea wondering whether she’ll stay where she is, blundering through the wonderful stupidity of her lengthening dress. her skirt dragging in melted salt, her deep breath, her fingertips going numb.

i am too familiar to be visible; observing indifferently, like a camera. women love to be haunted. i can see anything i want to see: lobsters rolling up in a tight wave, screaming as a curl is set. darling has said more than she ought. she has located the silver filigree, the sailboat hanging from the doorknob. it won’t be long before she’ll see what she can do.

she lost the strain along the way. she’d like to forget about this misunderstanding. i have nothing else to say, darling says.


under every rock a worm glides through the loam, laboring in vain. under a rock something small she misplaced; which rock, every rock is like another. things do not disappear while you still love them; they do not disappear while you are looking. duchess said she could be wrong; she is never sure. she must look in uncertainty and necessity. duchess pulls a lock of hair through a keyhole and hears a scream on the other side of the door. duchess whispers, do not let her hear you say that.

darling stood and left the tablea sweet drowsiness had closed her mouth. girls that never speak roam the woods unaccompanied; they can hardly be ladies. the limbs of trees join the bodies of young girls as they collapse into the sea. darling has been too hasty, delighting in the blind alley, the interminable hallway. duchess said it will not hurt, it will not be terrible. darling wondered whether anyone else was in the house; is anyone else home? she called. i know she didn’t mean to make a noise, a clatter and clang. duchess produced a key she was not supposed to have, a key she had kept in a clamshell. duchess smiled. darling’d rather look by daylight but it is already too late.

darling’s robe trailing down the staircase all afternoon. she deserves a boat of her own, a whistle. she could survive on nacre, tin; opening her embrace to the salt air, her belly full of ink. she likes to roam around, open every cabinet and fill it with flowers, with pitchers of mud. some girls don’t come back. you can scream and scream and scream. your shadow will stain the wall. darling sits and looks, looks at these walls, clouds flapping against the high window, cold hearted girls perched in trees in the wood beyond, draped in seaweed. darling stands and pushes in her chair. i’ve never seen her like this, combing the static out of her hair. there is a long way to go before she’ll leave this room. if she didn’t stay, didn’t turn over every piece of furniture, every rock, didn’t disturb the stacks of newspapers tied up with twine, the loose soil - if she didn’t she wouldn’t be here, then she wouldn’t be here. she’d like to be thought of as she thinks of desire, she’d like a haloed flashlight to arc over her face, to be lit up by longing.

duchess is careful not to tap her heel against the floor. this broadcast will not be interrupted.

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