Mia Avramut and John Riley
Costandina’s ocean shipping container
A night truck seized it at the port of entry, hermetically sealed, and hauled it to the storage shed outside the town, long before dawn.
On it, the envelope with typewritten contents:
Movers strap on heavy corset belts thick like saddles and work fast in the drizzling rain, motion her out of the way, but she helps often, without bending her spine, so she saves money and has it done in less than an hour.From the front of the flower business: metal table and shelves; neon sign: “Anthopolio”
From the back of the flower business: green carpet fragment (6 by 6 meters) with large water stain
From the girls’ room: crib, child walker; youth bed; box of clothes
From the main bedroom: one chest of drawers with carved delphinium and the inscription “Bloom where you’re planted;” pitcher and basin; wooden folded diptych icon of Saint Gorgonia “the diamond of her sex” refuge of the poor the married patron of the sick; in safe box one expired green card, one marriage certificate, child drawings with stick figure fairies, four birth certificates, four baptismal certificates; miniature sketches in pencil; pencils, pens; passé-partout and ornate frames that should never be used together
From the cellar: his posters; his old PAP machine (to sell here); box of sex toys he left behind that morning on the nightstand (court evidence); gilded bathroom mirror; his letter that starts with “seizing of the sum” and his navy tuxedo
From the kitchen: four enamel pans; one ibriki; one Turkish brass coffee grinder; five pouches of fine ground Papagalos; three wall hangings with pictures of Crete
From the sewing room: box of martyrika witness pins with blue ribbons; trunk with Kavafis, Elytis, Durrell, Kazantsakis, Carroll and others; teaching Orthodox Bible; photo album with stripped covers; wool blanket; U.S. Size 2 petite woman’s long winter coat
Betrothal martyrdom crowns
In her body and on x-rays
the spine petrifies into a plain doric order
column unadorned but for pain ram horns.
In the end it will tilt her head sideways
as if trampled with mules.
The winds have picked up.
In the shadows of morning, the seed of Sun hides.
Birds wake in earnest delight
but dance with the pharisees.
When everything’s out
the container’s pulse undetectable
with dollar bills and quarters
she pays for the burden she placed
on three masculine backs
her gnarled fingers draw the sign
of many crosses on a hollowed chest
sweet hierogamous merciful highness
pattern of married saints
find a home for all these
when she spies him in the back of the truck
through lowered eyelids
quivering membranes at a loss for flight dust
just his haggard fair ghost in the back of the truck
question mark bent on a lone witness stand
after he vomited all over his new wife.
He turns and looks at her so fair and English
and says again “I’m very sick, Costandina, forever sick”
and adds “These girls will grow with no father, your honor
no money can repay them, even if I had it but
they’re welcome to all flower shop assets
and she can try for a green card again.”
The winds funnel his closing plea murmur
“Thank Heavens they’re girls,
The seizing of a sum burnishes
the numbers ciphered, green
and fertile, blooming documents
to say I am. The same papers that will gather
at the feet of my ghost, leaving me with
while I drain you as empty as ambition.
There are no mere calculations,
The seizure of my accumulation,
of my sum, is not enough
to waylay your coming dread.
Your strong back will wither;
hunched, you will equal
the miscellanea cataloged.
Diseases. Despair. Disgraces.
The growing estrangement
of your left hand from your right.
My final addition will soon be done
and differences will deplete
the sum. Take that,
and that, and that!
Take the white lilies, the lotus blossoms,
take the roses for the river to cross.
Mia Avramut, a Romanian-American researcher who worked in laboratories and autopsy rooms from Pittsburgh to San Francisco, now lives in Essen, Germany. She is Associate Poetry Editor for Connotation Press and interviews authors for Scissors and Spackle. Her poetry and prose have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Conclave: a Journal of Character, The Prose Poem Project, Marco Polo, Crack the Spine, A-Minor Magazine, Santa Fe Literary Review, Menacing Hedge, and several anthologies. She received a Pushcart Prize nomination for her creative nonfiction in 2012.
John Riley lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he works in educational publishing. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Fiction Daily, Smokelong Quarterly, Connotation Press, Metazen, Blue Five Notebook, Willows Wept Review, The Dead Mule, and other places online and in print. He is an assistant fiction editor at Ablemuse.