Size / / /

"The Yellow Wallpaper" Sestina

She needed to get out

of the house. So I invited Charlotte

for tiramisu, coffee-soaked ladyfingers

and alcohol being great inducers. The bell rang

with me still in my slip, burning rows of yellow

arches into a blouse with a too-hot iron

to cover an earlier mistake. From his cage, the bird

screeched, whoisitwhoisitwhoisit. Damn bird.

"It's me, you. Let me in. It's Charlotte."

"Just a minute. I have to turn off the iron,"

I yelled and fed Hector a ladyfinger

through the bars of his cage. Charlotte-smeared-yellow

rushed in, a bag of wallpaper in hand, to wring

my mental neck. "Liar," she said. "You'd be ringing

bells at the asylum if they caught you with that bird."

She'd smudged my fresh-scrubbed wall. "Why so yellow?"

I asked. You never can tell with Charlotte.

"Look in the bag," she said. I gasped. "A lady's fingers?"

"They were in the attic behind Aunt Harriet's urn.

"We need to get her out," she said. "Unplug the iron

and help me." Not wanting to trigger a harangue,

I neglected to mention we didn't know this lady's fingers

from Eve's. Hector felt no such compunction, damn bird,

and screeched, whoisitwhoisitwhoisit. Charlotte

ignored him and dipped strips of wallpaper, yellow

and hideous, into my sink. Soon both smeared yellow,

we rinsed the paper and draped it across the ironing

board. The fingers skittered by. "Grab her," Charlotte

said. Focused on our labor, we let the phone ring.

Charlotte reddened and screamed, "You're outnumbered,

you crazy thing." She snatched the lady's fingers

free. There they were, the lady and her fingers,

a homunculus she in a puddle of yellow

on my kitchen floor, unencumbered

by dirty walls or blouses and irons,

by swatches of wallpaper we'd have to wring

dry. "She's beautiful," I said. "Tiramisu, Charlotte?"

We ate our coffeed-upped ladyfingers in a ring of yellow

afternoon and watched our she-child tumble, ironing

forgotten—Charlotte, the damn bird and me.




Ashley Nissler lives in North Carolina with her husband, two daughters, and a freaked-out cat. She spends her time reattaching Barbie heads and rehabilitating one-legged Polly Pockets. When she's not momming about, she writes. At the moment she is working on a novel and practicing poetry. Her email is ranissler@mindspring.com.
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