The Secret Life of a Bedsheet – Tara Mandarano

I am the worn and well-loved bedsheet Janetta slept on for fifty-four years, before she got trapped in the bathtub one day for over twenty-four hours, and never lay on me again.

She ordered me out of one of those Sears catalogues when she got married in the early 1940s, a stunning young woman, all sharp cheekbones and inscrutable green eyes. Awash in the double glow of matrimony and the purchase of her first real home, she was drawn to my muted tones, which suited her quiet-but-pleasant personality.

I remember her talking with her stepmother before she decided on me. Asking her opinion. Janetta did that with everything. All matters to do with the house had to go through Margaret’s approval process first, before anything could be definitively decided upon.

It’s just the way Janetta was. Motherless since the age of nine, she looked to the practical older woman, her middle-aged father’s brand-new wife, for all sorts of guidance when it came to life.

Margaret was kind in a blunt, straightforward way, happy to educate her stepdaughter when it came to all things etiquette. She knew how to set a table, how to cook the perfect pot roast, and most importantly, how to fend off unwanted advances from unsavoury men.

When she saw my pretty-yet-practical pattern peeking out of the catalogue, she promptly nodded her assent.

***

I remember when Janetta’s husband started spending more time with me, refusing to get out of bed. He’d been through the war years before, and his own internal battles, as well. A shell of the man he’d once been was the version of him who eventually came home to her.

He bought her a panda that sat on their dresser. He called her “Jan” in private. He genuinely loved her. But as he got older, he suddenly stopped wanting to go out. His social anxiety and psoriasis became his whole universe, and it was hard for her to live with.

I can’t count how many of her tears seeped into me over the span of their marriage.

Sometimes his water and salt would silently roll down and plop onto me, too.

I kept all their secrets in my pleats.

By morning, though, I was always dry again. And spotless.

But bickering and stubbornness leave their invisible stains and strains, and it was clear even to me that something essential had been lost between them. A lump of bitterness grew as they tossed and turned at night. During the day, they would take to their separate quarters of the house. Him to read the newspaper in the study, her to her domain in the living room, to watch daytime TV.

No matter the mood of their marriage, however, she always washed me religiously. Every Sunday I took a tumble and was spit out, bunched up and soaking wet. Never a believer in dryers, Janetta would pin me on the line to sway happily in the breeze.

The backyard, with the combined scent of her flowers and his cigarette smoke, became my beloved second home. The rays of sun hitting the folds of my fabric felt like heaven.

***

When he was gone for good, Janetta would spend more time curled up on top of me, childlike and empty. I could tell she was lonely by the way she would just lie there, clutching one of her many teddy bears. She had an entire collection sitting on her bedroom shelves.

It was during those times of sadness that I wished I could curl my corners around her in a comforting embrace.

Instead, I would just leave lines and marks on her already-wrinkled face.

***

When she laid out her trousers and blouse on me that fateful Saturday afternoon before her bath, I never dreamed that that time would be the last.

I could hear her calling out in pain from the mint-green tub when she couldn’t get out, and then a silence descended, more frightening then her whimpers had been.

I had witnessed so much of her life being a part of her bed, but I could not see the beginning of her end.

Eventually the firemen broke down the front door and rescued her, but she slept on the couch that night after her grown children eventually left.

I was suddenly and irrevocably bereft.

***

The next morning, Janetta would go to the hospital and never return home. Weeks later, her daughter would wonder out loud at her formal clothes laid out on the bed, and weep as she put them away for donation.

As he cleared out the house, room by room, her son would dutifully strip me off the mattress and toss me carelessly into a black garbage bag, as if I was worthless.

It was only when one of Janetta’s granddaughters came to look through the house for keepsakes that I dared let myself hope. When her fingers fumbled across me underneath some old, frayed pillowcases, my heart leapt.

I could tell she was looking for some mementoes and sentimental things to remember her grandmother by. As I lay there, all folded in on myself in sorrow, I saw her go to the kitchen, and I thought my chance at salvation gone.

When she came back a minute later with a pair of scissors, I was puzzled at first. Then she proceeded to cut out a square and put a patch of me in her pocket.

All I could think was that a part of me had survived, when Janetta and her husband had not.

***

Now I spend my days pinned to a crowded bulletin board in the granddaughter’s sunlit den. Faded by time, I am tacked up beside an old black-and-white photo of Janetta and Alfred as they strolled down Yonge Street in the 1940s. Glamorous and gorgeous, they are frozen in a frame, a forever way back when. And me? I am content, grateful to be close enough to brush up against their edges once again.

 

Tara Mandarano is a writer, editor, and copyeditor based in Canada. She balances life with a tyrannical toddler by consistently reading past her bedtime. Her work has also been published on Canadian Living, The Huffington Post, The Sunlight Press, Mogul, Mothers Always Write, Thought Catalog and Mamalode. Please visit taramandarano.com to see more of her writing or follow her on Instagram @taramandarano.

She Was My Sister – Khaloud Al-Muttalibi

It may take a weird coincidence to make you feel relaxed
It may take the special touch of fine frost to turn
your head into a bulletin board.
We gathered, around the TV to watch the latest news. I thought
I had spotted some of your mates but could not say
It may take ice and fingers of flakes
to write about how you had danced your night away
to the bombing sound of rock and roll
In a mortuary, a young woman lay. She was
my sister, they say

 

Khaloud Al-Muttalibi is a poet and translator. She resides in the United Kingdom. She is the author of six poetry collections. She has also translated and edited two separate anthologies. Her poetry has been published in numerous magazines and journals, including After the Pause, The Glasgow Review of Books, Anapest, Harbinger Asylum, Ink Sweat & Tears and Poetry24.

 

Women Writers We Love: Erin Wilson

Did you read Sex With You is a Strange Violin? Then meet the woman behind the poem— Erin Wilson! We wanted to find out what makes her tick, what inspires her, who she reads and more. Read our latest interview with the talented Erin Wilson.

What inspires me most?

Nature, art, language, the body, strange correlations. Language. Did I say language?

Who are your favorite women writers?

This has been an interesting question to consider. I have a deep attraction to male poets with what could be deemed a feminine spirit (a willingness to express themselves vulnerably) like Rilke, Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Gilbert or César Vallejo in his Human Poems. It took me a moment to recognize the female poets I admire, but once I recalled the first name, the rest came through in a rush, Sharon Olds, Margaret Atwood, Pat Lowther, Alix Cléo Roubaud, Wisława Szymborska and Marina Tsvetaeva, to name a few. And while Sarah Moon is primarily a photographer, her narrations of film are agitated poetic sessions which leave one breathless. (Which calls to mind the writer Clarice Lispector. See how this goes? Once the list begins, there is little stopping. And isn’t Francesca Woodman a poet with her camera?) What is interesting to me about these female writers is that they are writers with extreme courage. And so I begin to recognize just now that it is this synthesis that is most attractive and powerful for me, a merging of vulnerability with steadfastness.

What does your writing process look like?

Every morning I wake to read. And I read in order to become awake. Really, there could be no writing without reading. I write every day or I am not myself; a sadness descends upon me. Reading and writing, this is home for me. And so I carry books with me everywhere I go. And if not books, paper and pen. And also, birdseed. (But that is for the birds.)

What advice do you have for fellow women writers?

Advice. I can’t imagine I have advice to give. Write!

What are you currently working on?

I write whatever it is that occurs to me to write in the moment. I don’t organize to write in terms of projects. However, I have a number of projects I am working on simultaneously. Perhaps some hard work, in conjunction with an editor who appreciates what it is that I would like to accomplish, might see the publication of a book of poems regarding the indomitable nature of woman, a second volume in praise of the natural world, and a third concerning the glint, gleam, glom and glimmering of being. Once again, a synthesis.

 

Check out Erin’s latest published pieces on her website here!

 

Prelude to My Epitaph – Sharon Ava Ezekiel

He’s breathing so I can’t.

I hate him for being.

He takes a pretty girl, I try not to watch.

He excels and I cannot move.

Aging on my couch.  My heart is skipping beats again.

Nothing bad ever happens to the perfect ones, like him.

Why not just once?  Everything is so damn uneven.

I am still being punished.

My heart is a dirt basement; sometimes I feel nothing.

And here he is again, to make my day even worse.

Sharon Ava Ezekiel is a registered nurse, attorney and native Ohioan. She has performed with a dance ensemble and loves all four-legged creatures.  Her work, “The Storm Cellar”, was published in Flash Fiction Magazine.  

 

2 Poems – Amanda Laughtland

Help Wanted

I need a job and an apartment, but to get a job
I need an address and a phone number
and a driver’s license and a social security card.
I walk back to my “office” at the pay phone.

A middle-aged woman with a three-year-old granddaughter
tells me it’s always hard at the beginning
but you adjust and you apply for as many as possible
since a help-wanted ad may not mean

any help is wanted just now.

 

Swing Shift

The guy with the crucifixion t-shirt
(SOMEONE TO LOOK UP TO)
complains that his baked potato is too hard
and his iced tea too icy
and leaves no tip at all. I try to

treat each shift as an emergency:
you’ve got starving people,
so feed them! Forget that you
will have to do this tomorrow. Forget
that you will have to be

alert enough to drive home tonight.

Amanda Laughtland lives in the suburbs of Seattle. She is the author of Postcards to Box 464 (Bootstrap Press) and a handful of chapbooks. Most recently, her work has been published in E·ratio and One Sentence Poems.