She begins to smell but she still smiles. She withers and smells and her eyes cloud and her clothes fit no more but her scars heal and her hair still grows. She smiles and collapses minutely with clock sounds. The green of her eyes fades and her stature reduces into attitudes of roosting and a blueness takes hold of her lips and spreads over her cheek and all of these things she can still do.
I laugh because I am overcome. I stand on the street laughing until a woman knocks me to the ground with a shopping cart and sits on me and says Rub my belly for a quarter. I explain my situation and she says All will be revealed if you read the blue veins of my thighs. I explain with heartfelt rue that I have never been able to read thighs and she nods and squints and interprets for me:
Number 5 Pogue Street, a flagship mansion, fallen into shambles now. A madhouse reek in August. Empty now but for an old woman, resolved out of dawn light and her turning flesh and even cheap steelframe glasses and solder fillings seem precious in her pinchblue face, concentrating, shredding fennelbulb into cooling licorice tea. She is dressed in dark colors of severe weave and her feet are bare and when she sits and crosses her legs the bonestructure of her foot is perfect and lovely and then so collarbone and high cheekbones come through like something wrapped in sodden butcherpaper and can none that see her take back one agony or misfortune of her life and still fathom a present grace. She rolls tobacco from a can into ricepaper and her mouth is so dry she dips her tongue into the tea and runs it across the gummed leaf.
In her life she was shot at twice and stabbed in the thigh and on a separate occasion stabbed in the thigh with a cedar vinestake, she had straight wormwood liquor forced down her throat and what would not go down was poured over her dress and set alight, she was pitched into the Mississippi from the paddledeck of a riverqueen and into the Tennessee from the pilothouse of a riverqueen, was thrown from a veranda in Bogalusa, Louisiana, and this not including incidents with animals or blood kin. She was married by paper three times but involved in a plague of lesser passions that seemed terminable only by death or jail sentence. Lying down she measures two inches taller than when standing. She broke her left hand and wrist on brothers growing up and on lovers later and as a result the hand is smaller, curls up like a dead insect over her breast when she sleeps or laughs. These things she can still do.