The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
A Field of Poppie Kerchiefs
by Marge Simon
Just at dawn is my favorite hour when the olden women come to sweep the streets. Their kerchiefs like a field of bright poppies moving on a gray counterpane. One of them sees me at the window. She pauses, peering up and smiling. Her lips part as if she has something to tell me. I wave back at her. If only I could join her.
I got out once, a whole afternoon of freedom and back before they noticed I was gone. There is a park not far from here with trees that circle a small pond. I sat on a bench beside an old man in a frayed military uniform. He made clucking sounds to call the ducks. I watched him feed them crumbs from a brown paper sack. When all the crumbs were gone, he folded up the sack and put it back in his coat pocket. A few minutes later, he was gone. If I spoke his language, perhaps he would have talked to me. I would tell him my story. I’d tell him how I needed his help because I’m the daughter of a diplomat, held prisoner. I’d try to explain how I’ve been treated. They don’t need me, the war is over. But was a silly idea, to think he could help, I thought about that later.
It begins to snow, but they must finish their work. When they’ve moved on down the street, I pretend Mrs. Poppy Kerchief is talking to me. She tells me she knew me years ago. “Before the Third War, we were neighbors,” she says. “Your mother and I would meet for tea. You remember that, don’t you? You’d sit on my lap and I’d feed you cookies from America. She didn’t approve, your mother. But she let me do it anyway, since I’ve no child of my own.” And I say no, I haven’t forgotten. I dust the snow off her scarf, stitch my fingers into hers. “Come home with me,” she says. “Your parents are waiting for us.”
Tonight, they take me to the surgery. They say I will wake up with a “clean slate”. I won’t remember my family, or any so-called government secrets. I wonder if I’ll remember to look for the poppy-colored kerchiefs at sunrise. I wonder if I’ll remember anything at all.
Fiction © Copyright Marge Simon
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Marge Simon:
The title of this collection sets you up for the surprise of lyrical stories of victimizations with unexpected endings for the villains. Be ready to have your heart opened and cheer for perceived victims, human (made and unmade) and other life forms, victorious in the hands of these two award-winning poets. —Linda D. Addison, award-winning author, HWA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and SFPA Grand Master.
Across histories and cultures and from Auschwitz to Babylon this book leaves you questioning who are the victims, and regardless of your conclusion you’re likely to get throat-punched. This is horror where everyone has a knife, and is ready to deliver this message: “Remember, you are always guilty. —Herb Kauderer, author of Fragments from the Book of the After-Dead.
Simon and Turzillo have only gone and startled me again. What a collection! Brutal. Beautiful. This quiver of poems strikes with the unflinching truth of persecution and oppression as seen through the lens of feminism. Prepare to come away bruised and yet strangely bolstered by Victims, a symphony of sadness orchestrated by two masters of dark poetry. —Lee Murray, Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Award-winner.
This is one of the braver dark poetry collections I’ve seen in a while. Horror poets generally employ victims in their work, but the focus is generally on the Evil. Turning the camera the other way is unusual, unsettling, emotionally risky, and surprisingly effective. From their stark opening take on Pygmalion, to the ending poem about the wasted life of Stateira of Persia, this powerful collection teases apart an impressive number of the threads of victimhood. Some are the usual cases, but quite a few are surprises, or reversals, or cases with unexpected layers. There is nothing repetitive about this collection. —Timons Esaias, winner of the Asimov’s Readers’ Award and the Winter Anthology Contest
A terrific and intriguing story.
You had me at “poppy kerchiefs” as I have oriental poppies blooming in my garden at the moment and that’s exactly what they look like. This story is so full of intrigue and emotion – that sense of things unsaid is palpable.