“How Big the Sky” by Anna Hundert
1. he steals my darkest lipstick, the one I never wear, and holds me tightly from behind although I do not struggle, I shake as a steady hand writes his name across my back in my darkest lipstick, the one I never wear, which isn’t very dark but dark enough to look like blood. I push him away and then let him draw me close again and then wonder if this has happened to every woman. I look out the window and wonder, how small am I / how big the sky.
2. there was once a boy who practiced his signature everywhere, loopy letters in the corners of textbooks and takeout menus, in the stalls of girls’ bathrooms, in red lines carved into his skin that faded to shiny white. when we shared a pew he took the tiny free pencils they put out for prayers and pledge cards (the ones with flat ends instead of erasers because you can’t erase anything from god’s sight) and he scribbled the name on service leaflets and hymnals, on the announcements pamphlet, beneath a reminder to bring nonperishable foods for the drive, on the wider flat end of palms on palm sunday. he wanted to make the name beautiful but it was never beautiful because it was the wrong name. when he told me that he was a boy I held him close and repeated his more beautiful name into his ear and hoped that he would write it on every flat surface he could find, Peter Peter Peter Peter Peter.
3. my name folds in on itself until you cannot hear it, please do not say it, if I ignore you then you will only say it to get my attention, if I let you into my body then you will only say it for the effect.
4. when it is all over I will use warm water to wipe the lipstick-name from my back and when I look down at the washcloth in my hand, it is like a used pad soaked with the iron drawn out of my body by gravity and cyclic time. like the harsh redness that follows people who have too many empty spaces, it follows me and it follows Peter. it follows Peter in an even more sinister way, when his body opens up every twenty-eight days.
5. have you ever seen someone’s handprint on your own skin? it is like a name, it is more than a name. have you ever looked up and wondered, how small am I / how big the sky. my name folds in on itself. is there a way to take a very deep breath without becoming more round at the middle? where can my air go but to fill my body, to grow me?
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Anna Hundert Artist Statement:
Anna Hundert studies Classics and Literary Arts at Brown University. In addition to
being a reader and a writer, she is a fiercely liberal feminist (defined as intersectional and
trans-inclusive feminism) and a religious Christian. She grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio
and attended the public schools there. Her written work (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry)
has appeared in Slippery Elm, The Round, Post-, Cornerstone, Semanteme, and The Fiske
Guide’s College Essays That Work.