An Old Woman Speaks Up

By Katherine Flannery Dering

Someone comes rushing into my bedroom
and leaves a baby – a five or six
month old girl wearing only a diaper – 
on my bed.  She’s chubby and quiet and smells 
of ointment and talc. The blankets are disheveled, 
the sheets damp with sweat. They smell

of sex.  My lover, a tall, slender man with dark 
eyes and a beard—he looks suspiciously like 
my first husband, but he isn’t, of course— 
leans back on the bed and smiles. 
He’s wearing no clothes. He doesn’t mind 
the baby at all.  (How did he get here?)  I think

we are in a New Orleans bordello.  
There are lacings on the floor-to-ceiling windows, 
like the ones at the Creole cottage we renovated. 
But that was the 70’s; this place looks 
like a sepia-toned Storyville scene.  
Am I in a corset? The child’s mother

has gone. The lover has gone. I shout
after them, “I am not as metaphysical as I seem.”
I hear children playing. There is no air.  
The sky outside the window is gray.
I sit on the side of the bed, and the baby 
lies on her back and plays with her toes.


Katherine Flannery Dering has published a memoir–Shot in the Head, a Sister’s Memoir, a Brother’s Struggle; a poetry chapbook–Aftermath; and individual poems and essays in literary journals, recently in Inkwell, RiverRiver, Tilde, Cordella, and Adanna. She serves on the executive committee of the Katonah Poetry Series and lately divides her writing time between poetry, essays, and a book of short, feminist fables.

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