Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her recent work is appearing or forthcoming from Redheaded Stepchild, The Bellingham Review, Yemassee, and Sou’wester, among others, and her chapbook Dear Turquoise is available from Dancing Girl Press. She serves as Managing Editor for Cider Press Review. Her blog is Five Things.
I’ve been told—a lie—it is impossible
to fold a single piece of paper more
than seven times. I would crease and
bend, smooth myself flat, curl over
my own skin in layers of molting
calcium and discarded carapace. I
would fit myself into the smallest place—
under the rotting board of the back
porch, into the funnel-woven web
where patience waits for the smallest
vibration. Or best: between the two
stones at the base of the sea wall.
There, I could begin again to breathe.
I have lost my ground, been too long
away from my hermit cousins. Once
folded, I could reclaim my pioneer
shell, return—clean-washed if not
pristine—to something narrow and
capable. Once stolen, it would be
almost fitted again, almost mine.
She sees the spaces we have forsaken
—the spokes of a Ferris wheel stilled,
empty gondolas transfixed in irradiated
air—and curses us for our desertion.
How little we know of care or maintenance,
how much we allow ourselves to lose to
perforated vessels. Entire cities betrayed,
branches reaching through surrendered
windows, the homes we refuse to reclaim.
The trains decanted, or long since shunted
or rumbled to other lines, cannot cross such
crumbling trestles, leaving us without any
way of getting out, she says. God, yes.
A single passenger, her luggage dragging
a path through the plaster-fallen floor,
could take a bench and rest. No one to
find her here, no one to ask her for
the time, or for anything at all—seduced,
she could be the one who chooses, the one
who leaves, the ever-vanished woman.