Mary Todd On Her DeathbedI can hear them, choking on spoons, screaming,in the shower stalls; the fat are given onlya raw egg and whiskeyand those who refuseto eat are force-fed. The least crazy sing,picking scalp scabs in window-seats.One woman finds scissorsand stabs herselfagain and again. It was the tireless Jewwho wore me down; no one believedthat he followed mefrom train to trainwith his satchel of poisons sneeringas they searched my baggagefor the stolen footstools, how he knewthat I shuffled because my petticoats,stitched so tight with money,had become a heavy netfor dredging the lost. And I do not speak of the lost:Abe could have worn me as a boutonnièremy pinched face, say it: an ugly plump bud,hoisted skirts and petticoats
the leaf and ribbon trim.I remember the hoisted skirtshow his body seemeda long white country of its ownBut it was owned by a countryof citizens as unruly as my dead boys,my dead boysroaring through the White House.Nothing was mine, after all. Strangerscrowded his open coffin, snipped souvenirsfrom the curtains,slipped handsinto the casket to unclip his cufflinks.All the while they could hear mewailing from bed.Every day I can move slightly less;each body hinge becomes more stubbornthan memory.I know how I will die: a clenched jaw,fists gripping bed sheets. Stiff with longing,I will have to breakinto heaven, the willowsin my handmade girldhood hoop-skirt snapping.
From the book Lizzie Borden In Love, which, after some years of contemplation, I have belatedly decided to cop.