This Now

by Joanna Clapps Herman

For those of us who are my age, it’s more than just adjusting to the strega face in the mirror. Even enjoying the white hair framing the face, accepting the neck. No, it’s that our people have started to drop off—Ken died last night. It’s the jolt that this is not premature, not out of time—it’s my generation’s time to step off the cliff one by one. Ken lay on the floor for hours alone in his lovely home in Vermont. His beautiful large garden just outside the side door. That’s what killed him, not the cancer in his excellent brain. 

I pull small nests of hair from my hairbrush every day, collecting these soft clusters with my spotted fingers. I wait for tiny birds to claim them. But no birds arrive to pluck the grey tangles from my palm. Where are the little birds who could line their nests with my aging hair? Maybe I should collect this hair in a large box to prepare my own final bed, cushioning what is always arriving now, my fast and slow undoing. Age is a feral thing, but so has so much of it been. Just can’t keep the facades up as easily now. 

Mi fai schianee. You’re giving me hot flashes. My mother is telling me what her mother used to say when her children pestered her too much. She explains that’s what I’m feeling after my oophorectomy. “You’re schianee Jo. That’s what happens after an operation like this.” I’m schianee. The feeling is terrible, disorienting, in a body that doesn’t seem like mine anymore. But the word is excellent. Another day sitting across from me at our kitchen table my son asked, “What did they do with your ovaries Mama?” I imagine an arc as they are tossed into the schianee bucket.

About the author

Joanna Clapps Herman has had 30 short prose and poems published in the Covid era: Odyssey PM, MUTHA, Pummerola, The Ocean State Review, Italian Americana, Persimmon Tree. Her book length publications include, When I am Italian: Quando sono italiana, explores the whether it’s possible to be Italian if you weren’t born in Italy, No Longer and Not Yet and The Anarchist Bastard: Growing Up Italian in America. She’s co-edited two anthologies; Wild Dreams and Our Roots Are Deep with Passion.

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To Be Done

by Darryl Lauster