The Curse

by Christine Hamm

At 14, I am visited by strange green flies and visions of the virgin. She is out of focus. Her hair appears to be pink. She speaks only in Greek. When I shake my head because I don't understand, she gives me the finger.

My sisters pinch me and talk about a fixation on Britney Spears.

Each night the moon is full. The flies avoid the TV, but cling to the mirrors. My sisters swat at them and glare. Sometimes I look at myself in old photos late into the night. I was different then, before I was called. Since then I have shaved my head and sleep on the floor. I only bathe in fat-free milk.

Still, the virgin torments me. Her sarcasm is enormous. My dreams are filled with blocks of color. Sometimes I dream with my eyes open. The teachers in school resent this. My mother can do nothing with me. My sisters tie my hands behind my back and leave me in a closet for days. The virgin persists.

I begin to think the virgin resides in one of my bicuspids, and I attempt to remove it. My father offers me his pliers.

They bury me at sunset next to my grandmother. Purple roses spring spontaneously from my grave. During the wake, the virgin appears and hovers over the TV set. She points to my youngest sister. My youngest sister pisses herself. The others move their chairs away.

Woman in Search of her Sex

She became obsessed with getting water into her body. She took two hour baths followed by hour long handstands. Her bookcases were filled with enemas and douches. They were arranged according to color and scent. She drank ten gallons of Poland Spring a day. Her kidneys hibernated and had nightmares. She put a funnel in her ear and poured in rose water. She stuck her face into a sinkful of water and inhaled.

She became more and more pale and indistinct. When she opened her mouth to speak, one could hear the faint crash of waves in the background. Her belly murmured with the lonely sonar calls of whales. Her skin became scaly. Her hair started to fall out. Her eyes became huge and stopped focusing on anything. She stopped saying hello to the women in the apartment next door when she got her mail. She stopped getting her mail.

She cut herself shaving and something vaguely orange oozed out. Her toenails dropped off. A huge fish tank, fishless but full, sat in her bedroom. At night, neighbors in the building across the way could see her face illuminated by the fish tank glow. She gestured and spoke eloquently to no one.

The neighbors called the cops. The cops took her away.

The apartment stood empty for two years. Mold crept into huge snowflake shapes along the windowsills.

Then the neighbors saw the woman again, at night. She had grown enormous. She was shiny and naked at all times. She let her breasts rub against the glass as she painted the window panes black.

The neighbors called the cops. The cops went into the apartment and disappeared. The neighbors called more cops. More cops came. There was an accident. The building was burned to the ground. The smell of burnt fish for days.

The neighbors moved away. They moved to the ocean. They were visited by odd spells of melancholia and nose bleeds. They regretted the city. They were all eventually lost at sea.

©2002 by Christine Hamm

Christine Hamm has a Master's in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in 3am Magazine, Stirring, Diagram, Shampoo Poetry and Poetry Midwest. She recently was the inaugural poet of the summer reading series at The Read Cafe in Brooklyn. In October she will be teaching a poetry writing workshop through the Women's Studio Center in Astoria. Christine is the literary editor of the new magazine, Wide Angle. See more of her work at her Web site.

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