“Black White and Blue” by Ana Gardner

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        1. The first time a wooden hanger hit my thigh,

I crawled into a storybook of Arabian nights,

And burrowed through the pages, deep into silence and inky walls

 

Every story a new home 

     Save for two.

 

The tale of an ungrateful boy who out of greed killed his wife and mother

Left me cold and angry

The man who cut off his sister’s hand made me crumple the pages.

 

I grieved for those women, wise and good and wronged

But wondered how they were so resigned to their tragedy

Sad about their own deaths like one is sad about the burning of a library. 

 

Lizbet. Fatima. I remember their names.

 

 

         2. The time a belt buckle gave me a bruise

I dove down an illustrated edition of Pinnochio,

Nearly the size of my seven-year-old torso

 

I loved the sparkly tuna sprawled across two full pages

    but mourned the beautiful blue fairy

        Who dies in the book

I skipped that part on every reread.

 

       3. On nights too loud to fall asleep,

I took up with a feuilleton about a thief in Ancient China

The Merry Dragon drew white peach flowers on walls 

And loved a cunning housemaid who outsmarted his schemes.

Later I found his Turkish cousin, Nasraddin 

Who talked to donkeys and fed his tunic banquet dinners

 

Their clever lives drowned out my other noises.

 

Nasraddin’s wife was by turns even-headed advisor and witty foil

      She had no name, so I named her 

           Mira, after my great-grandmother

           Another clever woman

      I drew her portrait in blue pen above a chapter name

I cried when she died 

 

Nasraddin’s new wife had a name, Nazira

And she outsmarted a greedy judge in her first tale.

 

        4. My stories piled one atop another until they toppled

And I had to make a new pile, and another

They grew as I did.

 

My shelves are never organized, these days, and they buckle

But they hold up, mostly, 

They hold me up

 

No one pushes me down a book but myself, now.

I jump, eager 

    And curl around the pages like an ink drawing,

Sparkly like Pinnochio’s tuna and delicate like a peach flower

Sweet like Nasraddin’s figs 

And clever, so very clever, 

    Like those women who survived the Arabian nights

        And those who didn’t.

 

I carry their tales in my pages

They smile on me when I sleep

 

Ana Gardner is an Eastern European immigrant currently teaching at a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts. Her works have previously appeared in The Colored LensThe Dime Show Review, and others, and are upcoming in Corvid Queen. You can find me on Twitter at @whataremetaphor