In Pursuit of Ugly Women

This story is paired with “First Epoch, The Story Begun by Walter Hartright” from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free. 

blazevox badgeShe left behind her underwear,
her name sewn along the seams,
and you race the countryside
clutching her unmentionables
as though she will be drawn back into them.

You find that she is neither alive in the asylum
nor dead in the bedroom;
she is neither alive in the bedroom
nor dead in the asylum.
Where else do ugly women go?

You look around the grotto
where she was last reported
by another man who couldn’t see her
when he finally turned to look.
The man-sized footprints were his only proof,
bad proof at that.

You try the churchyard where she’s buried
in case you find her there alive,
cleaning the tombstone
she was buried under
when she was the other one.

But in truth on this night of icy rain and smoke
she is squatting on your roof
just above your window
and wearing no petticoats.
She is a sister to her sister.
She is listening to all the words,
and she has a pen.


NBR7WalshsmallJessica Walsh’s first full-length collection, How to Break My Neck, comes out in December from ELJ. She is a poet and professor at a community college in suburban Chicago.