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The Last Motherhood of Shirley Jackson

People disappear. Up Glastenbury
++++++++++and down the mountainside, through
Somerset township and Bennington.
++++++++++Paula Jean Welden, 18, vanished on
December 1, 1946. She was last seen

++++++++++on the Long Trail just before dark.
In this story she is Natalie, fresh-faced
++++++++++and virginal, feet in the dewy grass.
Another daughter abjected. She makes
++++++++++a mark in her notebook, smokes

a final cigarette. Last breath of summer
++++++++++over the hills. In the evening, the children’s
voices carry. First to Powers for red beans,
++++++++++canned soup, milk, then home with the heavy
groceries. Stanley needs his ink refilled.

++++++++++She remembers him in the kitchen,
in the early days of their courtship, catching
++++++++++her in his arms: It’s because we’re Jews.
She does not know what to believe. Instead
++++++++++she sets her hexes: nettles under the bed

for fertility, books nailed to trees, spells
++++++++++for his little infidelities: a dropped key,
a hair ribbon, a lipstick stain on a collar.
++++++++++Carelessness. A year inside with the curtains
closed. And the villagers standing around

++++++++++like extras before the rain, waiting for the sky
to open. Arms raised as if for a stoning.
++++++++++It does seem, dear, that this gloomy kind of story
is what all you young people think about
++++++++++these days. Why don’t you write something

to cheer people up? Throw the windows open,
++++++++++one by one. Turn the dirt from the graves.
There are more people dead than living
++++++++++here on earth. What ghost here, what god,
what girl dancing in an empty room.

Eliza Browning is a student at Wheaton College in Massachusetts studying English and art history. She reads poetry for the COUNTERCLOCK Journal and edits EX/POST Magazine…. Eliza Browning recommends the work of Stephanie Chang.