sporklet 16
Elise Winn
From Our Bodies We Are Made

After my father died I lived among the asters and then I found a flat field. I wanted to gather each edge of the earth around me until it billowed. In the clover I slept while cows slept and grazed while cows grazed. The clover was topped with flowers, pretty thimbles fringed with red fuzz.

As expected, you found me and we lived together, sistered in a gabled house full of dark corners and dribbled sun. Alone, we bled ourselves into women, painted rust-colored portraits of the girls we’d been, and cracked our ribs like wishbones to give them life again. Dirt-smudged, greasy-haired, sweat-scented—we wouldn’t have recognized our girls on the street, in the woods, in the mirror. They were gone before we could promise them what we’d learned: from our bodies we are made, and to our bodies we will return.

We took turns pinning each other’s plaited hair into tight, coiled buns no man could climb. A cow has four stomachs and that house must have had more. We squeezed through each until we reached our tower—a quiet attic with round windows and rough floors. In every corner, our treasures: ladybug shells and centipede husks. Above us, between the rafters, a swollen sky, rash-pink, which I couldn’t help but scratch.

As if cued, men came knocking. We refused to unlatch the door, but they found a way in. The first I poured from the teapot into my cup. His head was crowned with leaves, his hands pruny from steeping. He bobbed once or twice, then dove dramatically to the bottom, retrieving for us a rose hip. After that, we made sure to let the kettle whistle long and loud on the stove.

The next man we heard flapping in the chimney like a stuck sparrow. His crooning echoed through the house. Swinging your axe, you chopped chairs into arms and legs, and together we struck the match. We made sure to keep the fire well-fed after that.

The last man was slyer still: he hid between our sheets like a flea, planning to spring while we slept. While I pinched him between my finger and thumb, he wept and told us of his loneliness. He begged us to be kind. But we were women, and we had no patience for that.

All that time here’s what I couldn’t shake from my head, something my uncles said before my father was in the ground: If you feed a cow her own fur, she will forget her former home. I was hungry. I ate. I ate and ate and ate.

Elise Winn’s fiction has appeared in Granta, Third Coast, American Short Fiction, and elsewhere, and has won awards from journals such as Fairy Tale Review, Zoetrope, and The Iowa Review. She is the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation grant and is currently working on a novel.