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Juliet, From the Balcony



So she says it all, for him to overhear. Narrates her privation.


He’s come over the orchard walls. All that rustling through the cypress. Even above the lemon tree blossoms saturating the summer night, she can smell his neck.


She’s a minor philosopher, here. Has the semiotic not down. The country-length distance between name and man.


In one painting her pale throat is engulfed, his hand bending her, bending her. In another, two white petals fallen on the balcony steps—minor detail.


There is no balcony.


The playwright has no word for it, 1595.


How badly the audience wants her closer, for her to step from behind the window. Skirt billowing.


See, there is no crest, no marble lip to mount.


When she speaks, she is opera’s first monody.


When she speaks, she is the Ponte Pietra above the Adige. Adriatic salt-wind, flesh of hazelnut, milk-just-souring.


Olive groves pulsing before the harvest. Is arbiter of sun and moon.


Bright angel.


When she speaks, she is the amphitheater split per mezzo after the earthquake.


Is the earthquake.


When she speaks she does not say nothing.




Reader, I



buried him. I dug and dug and dug while, across the kitchen island, he—still smug—crunched the Cheetos. Crunch. Crunch. For this, Venetian women lost their sight to lace? For the temper’s pilot light? No fight that I could win? (At what point, reader, does a hairline become the break?) My hands bloodied under a polished moon (I ditched the shovel for the hysterical spoon and one by one I meted out his deepening spot). His marriage plot. No makeup sex to lick the rift. That I were a woman who could flick the glassware one by one from the porch… My problem, good reader, is the constant rewind, the projector flashing always against the tall silo of my mind what he did and didn’t. “Were you glad?” the therapist asked when I replayed the heart attack, the dream, again, of letting him turn blue on twin petites. I pictured long days scrubbed of the nothing much that we had said. Impromptu flights to Biarritz. A rotating fleet of duller men who I could pity and kiss. Could you repeat the question? What was it? I could never say exact enough. It was more the way he said it, yesterday, as if I were a child. The way he proclaimed, again, perhaps we weren’t a very good match. Wild, how I could catch him in a lie (whose number is this?), how his eyes would flash before he cracked his screen. I swore again and again to leave. I washed my hands of sod at the side-yard spigot. I’d been beguiled. The worried neighbor pointed at a caterpillar in the carport, its smaller band of rust. Trust me. This winter, she said, will not be short, or mild.


Corey Van Landingham is the author of Antidote, winner of the 2012 The Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award, and Love Letter to Who Owns the Heavens, forthcoming from Tupelo Press. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Illinois.

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