Wendy Neale Merry is a poet and essayist from California. Her writing has appeared at Hobart, NANO Fiction, Spork, DMQ, Stone Highway Review, and others. She lives in downtown Manhattan with her family where she enjoys the tranquility and free lances as an art director for feature film campaigns. Read more here: wendymerry.com.
The trouble with exposure therapy
Imagine a baby tiger, is an example of something the doctor might say. “Don’t worry, Cathy,” we chant together. There’s worry enough in the elevator’s jaw, the spikes of light the windows let in. In our group, they don’t give us pens, our desks are trench-eaten to nervy brail. Dennis, who starts us off today, hates rain, how he feels surrounded. En route to session I count stoplights. Aversion as meat, aversion as bait. When you feed the tigress she expands. We know in our white-fist hearts that each day we don’t touch a stranger’s face, don’t pick up the street quarter, we’re fattening her. Soon that panther is on our step, she’s left dirigible marks over the bed. Now imagine each one of your fears gets up and announces itself into a microphone, one of the nurses suggests. “I feel the room spinning,” I say at the podium. “I think it’s the planet’s fault.” Suddenly I’m alone, I’m alone, onstage with a rubber nose and fire-taming kit. Here’s what I really think: baby tiger’s got a Dark Mother and we all know it.
The neighbors of our Ex-Lives
The house is a rake and knows it. Its doors prattle on their joints, the yard comes and goes as it pleases. Idea for new sex business: study the touch-perches of man-angled balconies. When did the couch start sleeping upstairs? Jenny is running mirrors around the dog pen again. The table is set with one cup, one candle; there’s saran wrap round the old family joke. Today is another sourdough starter, look at the kids playing gimme-ghost, the batty old dates of our old calendars, yes the fresh little news only works for an hour. “Suddenly,” means it’s Sunday again, the mowers heave out of their Spring positions. And the lawns keep up their end of the bargain. Gary down the block made a case for it; Someone created time in their garage, after all. We thought it was too simple, at first, seemed no different, than any other home-grown, poison ladder.
It was hard to tell which parts were face; Its onerous spread on the weeping grass, hand-less-hands tying and untying the weeds. Only trembling where a throat should be. Someone, Darin probably, got the idea to put gloves on, roll everything into a darkness kit. But the beaks would not allow for that. We worked so hard ‘round the spook-corners that soon a little black-boned footbridge formed for us. We’d abide by the scar tissue, tickle around the perimeter. In time most everything resumed: our paper routes, mid-sized dogs and casual dining. Marylin came home once after too much wine and bumped up against it. Maybe a hood or tail we thought. All of us had found ways through the bracken by then. Yes, with all the parades and flashing lights we’ve thrown in Its honor these days we mostly just pass by, quietly thank It.
And then suddenly, that summer
It was burn-season down at the shadow docks. Brady played coy at the boat bay. Shane thought of it first: throwing the heads of anything we’d scaled back into the water. We were so busy watching for tails flickering we didn’t notice our sister rising off the buoy. She took one hand and snapped it to a boom, another she placed on a shaking jib. Her thighs curled under her in a wooden squall. This was wind without permission, we thought. Her jaw became the planks of a ship and tongue a salty starboard. She was seaworthy and as she jettisoned the ectofroth tiny gulls gilded her with tetra. We watched until she was out of reach. We never spoke of it again, just went back to our little captains knobs, coaxing the oars, patting the quick waters in her wake hoping more baby fish would pop up.