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Living in the House of Usher


Evidence of some bitter struggle [was] on every pore of her emaciated frame.”  Poe

I was Madeline in those lost years.  Unable to waken my better self.  Voices blew shoulds through our damask-covered windows. I could not stop them.  Expectations echoed in our halls, ricocheted off walls, brought our house down.  Don’t misunderstand.  I saw the fissure in our foundation—toed quietly around it. You said I should have known the perils of an aging house—that wandering grounds at night would tear my white gowns.  You dismiss the danger of sidestepping sense with sensibility.  Let me tell you:  I was scared of what you didn’t see.  The acid reflux of dissatisfaction, the sound of gears grinding behind the public face, the silence of disapproval.  Misophonia and migraines sent me to bed, a pillow over my head.  Usher’s love of mother and the Scout creed but mostly of himself built bricks of resentment.  Add mortar of alienation.  You see how tendrils of melancholy formed the cement that immobilized me.  The implosion of the house we built is the B-grade nightmare that prevents me still from wearing white.  Sometimes Usher is just the tale of a madman, but after the dream, I catch the rock hard, moonstone face of Madeline in my mirror and feel ice in my veins.


Janet Reed teaches writing and literature for Crowder College in Missouri. She is a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has been published and is forthcoming in multiple journals, and she is at work on her first chapbook.