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Keeping the Lid On

by Josepha van den Anker

The August heat percolated in her head - but she kept the lid on.
The heat bounced off the cement sidewalk,
    - off the tall apartment building and the one she had just left,
    - off the miles of asphalt car park which surrounded the malls and which ran, one into the other,
    - off the boiling traffic in four lanes of highway,
And sitting on the bench at the bus stop - opposite Harvey’s Hamburger Inn - she smelled the greasy heat off the building.
And when her man - the sick one - the one she had nursed and comforted got better and left her destitute for another - the lid then, had almost come off.
And middle-aged - living again with her mother - the one she had run away from - once - she kept the lid on tight - too tight.
She got on the bus which was an oven - packed tight with bodies - breathing - and she could barely - and then it started again.
At first she took no notice - for the scream of pain that she heard in her head and which rarely left her - was her own. But … this time it was different … this time it was different for the others had heard it too …
At last, the lid had come off and she was uncovered.
With her mouth open - but not breathing,
    With her heart stopped - but thumping not beating,
    With her eyes pleading - for mercy - her ears heard it again,
    And again it was different.
In a flash of triumph and absolution - she realized the scream came not from her, but from another.
And as she pressed closer - shifting together - now again, one of the crowd - away from that other -
She screwed on her lid yet tighter.



Taken from ‘Footprints on the Limestone’ (1993), pages 78-79.

Josepha van der Anker

Maura Barry