From the Archive: “Festoon,” by Catie Rosemurgy

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Festoon,” by Catie Rosemurgy, appeared in the Winter 1999 issue of MQR.

*

Every two feet, a pair of calla lilies
covers a tack pinning a cream satin ribbon
to the church wall. Every now and then

over the past twelve years, the groom has
backed me up against a wall.
My skin, my showy, scented skin,

brightened each time he wanted to kiss me.
Like a crisp stem, I leaned into him
on the front porch, in the restaurant,

on the college quad. Every two minutes,
either I think of his hands
or I think the bride does.

His covert, cocktail-party caresses
are his greatest gift. I work backwards
to his finger tracing my neckline. She works forwards.

I’m a lily. I’m a tack. Her voice feels
like a cream satin ribbon swinging across
the middle of my back. She has my blue, amused eyes.

I could have her life. I say with this ring.
I deliver his baby. I set out
his vitamins, and my hands are wrinkled.

But I don’t know her. I know his mouth.
I could be his mouth.
I kiss her deeply. She is a lily.

The undiluted taste of her
holds me in place while fields and streams
come and go around us. Like him, I spread out deeply

into the dirt. From thirty feet away,
she reminds me of a mirror, of practicing
what I will say. I say I take thee. But taking his hand,

she is finished. She is decorated and wise.
She knows that whenever she lays down her hands
they will land on some part of him,

even in the dark,
for the rest of her life.
Husband and wife, they walk out,

the congregation pulled after them
in drowsy, well-dressed chains.
My date guides me. Each man’s hand

supports the small of a woman’s back.
Each woman’s stare is fixed
on another man’s neck. There will be miles

between the couples in minutes.
This my last chance to lead myself
to disaster. When he hugs me goodbye,

the groom says my name in my ear.
My name. My job. My city. Lights in the skyline.
People living. Bodies briefly

captured in bright windows.
I want to tell him I love him because
I may never think of his handsome face again.

*

Image: O’Keeffe, Georgia. “Yellow Calla.” 1926. Oil on fiberboard. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

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