Two Prose Poems — Ann Stewart McBee

Centrifugal Stain

My cat bit a tick that had lodged itself in her tail, breaking the exoskeleton with such force that the blood made a rapidly curving arc that spun into discs. Its shadows birthed an ever-spiraling pattern of dots on the eggshell ceiling. The whooshing, flying blood vibrated bubbles of ooze out of the white cells pierced by the cat’s fangs.

The liquid collected into a bulb, shiny and gelatinous. Pulsing silhouettes inside the dome gyrated and teemed, passing through each other until they became as many as the cat’s follicles. As they emerged roaring from the mucus, a hissing arose – brilliant cold meeting tepid air. Steam droplets lashed their tails, stretched themselves long and then contracted. Some turned inside out, and before falling, exploded into sudden flight. Screaming and spinning, they began to absorb the color from the friendly wallpaper, along with cobwebs and specks of oil.

The shadows grew fat with flowers floating in clear glass bowls, many-surfaced glittering bumbling spheres, tart rings of shiny foil, magnetic putty. The cat batted them with her paw, tossed them asunder with a catnip-stained snout. At last they fell but writhed within the carpet, ever widening and dividing. They created a hum of speaking to each other, then a sucking sound as the room was pulled into them. Now the wallpaper was on the floor, the walls coated eggshell, the ceiling carpeted. Each puddle multiplied and wrapped itself in a glistening, stiff new skin. I sponged away the mess with ammonia.


The Wardrobe Dreamt Of Sam

I am going to be on TV…wearing a wool hunting hat with ear flaps for adventure with me and me. Slit-eyed contacts for my morphing scene. My shirt will be purple and clean. The t-shirt underneath it heather gray. Or I will make my hands into a “T” for time out, and the world will freeze. In my aside to the audience, I will hatch a plan to get out of this jam.

But when I awaken I will be in a school that looks like a prison in the middle of a suburb. I will pretend I don’t know the answers. I will make a mix CD of every movement by every girl and listen to it later in the dark of my room. I will pretend not to sweat and vomit. My jeans will have holes and my pockets will be full of posies. A high school delinquent. From the Latin de– ‘away’ + linquere ‘to leave.’

And when I awaken, I will have found the LORD. He wears mountain ranges, dry riverbeds, great mesas, towering sand dunes, striking cinders cones, domes and lava flows, Joshua trees, creosote and cholla. Pastel shirt ironed crisp and tucked in. Long skirt in a subtle print. Wide brimmed hat. Pants with a crease traveling down the front. Leather dress shoes shined glossy.

Then I will awaken a snake. Leprous distilment. Blossom of sin. Deep tunnel feculence. Vestments of silver plastic. Hostile ghost with eyes of amethyst. Sunglass lenses the color of thistle. Glister in the sun. Stilettos. Gunstock infested with zebra mussels. Alyssum stamens. A stippled pearl like a cyst. The oyster’s stigmata. A sinner always. Masquerading as light. Tassels. Wool and linen together. A satin sash that says Go Rochester Highlanders. A smile.


Ann Stewart McBee has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she taught literature and creative writing and served as Editor-in-Chief for UWM’s literary journal cream city review. Her work has been published in Citron Review, The Pinch, Ellipsis, At Length, Palaver, and Southeast Review. She now teaches writing at Des Moines Area Community College and lives outside Des Moines, Iowa with her husband and a smelly little terrier. Her novel, Veiled Men, is looking for a home.