A Mischief by Jennifer Natalya Fink


Every time I see you I bleed. Not the optimistic red of love newly born. More oil spill. Menstrual cramp. Black porridge.

Let’s zoom in. Detail: woman on bed, on back, being thrusted into— note the tortured and rather passive syntax—whilst black and gloppy blood streaks down chubby thighs. Streaks, splotches. Doesn’t pour. Too viscous. Something of the slaughterhouse. Museum of carnage.

Magnify her left inner thigh: a painterly drip. We can perceive the fruity undertones. Orange, persimmon, pomegranate. It takes three fruits to describe it with any accuracy. And I’ve always been one for the telling detail, let me tell you, my darling, my Callery pear.

An ache or is it a tremor, tremulous pain like blood coursing through my every vein. Pain, pain. It swallows all other words. Worlds. Gulp.

Darling, I’m at the hotel bar, waiting, wondering what colors you’ll make me this time. It’s the dead week between Christmas and New Year. The white lights strung across the copper bar elicit a haphazard joy to if not the world at least this table. I order Champagne, oysters, caviar: whatever denotes extravagance. The waitress recommends the rum balls, oh their sauce. I believe her. I believe in the decadence of this moment, this manufactured joy. I finger the fairy light beside my champagne flute. I am so decorative.


I was beginning my spree of brokenness. Your sister called: born old, delighted to lose the meager wildness of youth, to complain of ailments of children of you. I listened, yes, yes, Aurelia, so graceful a name for such a bitter one. ‘Rory’ you called her, but nobody else did. You have disappeared. Do I know where you are? No, I don’t. It isn’t like Petra not to call at Christmas. Am I worried? I didn’t answer. Plaint, complaint.

I hung up and went outside in the snow, lay down in my simple skirt and blouse.

I am the snow maiden, come for me, I proclaimed to the snow. To you. It was one of those winters that threaten never to end, bleeding white into May. June will come, June won’t come, I made a daisy song of it there in the snow, first making angels, then burying my simple self. It’s uncommon, suicide by freezing. I mean one can plunge into anything. But to lie here, waiting for the cold to take me. What a talent. Violent victory but whose. I tried to bury the sound. Echo of a litany of concern. Oh daisy, oh Aurelia.

I woke to frostbite. Estrangement from god from man but not you, my Petra. Mine. My Damascus, my road.


I’m propped against your hotel sink it’s small. I open the yet smaller window and bellow ‘morning hey!’

This is why I’m here: for this sky: dappled: drowsy: moving across the morning in lazy haste so as not to miss its noon. Last will and testament to the impossibility of this morning. Well you’re old, Petra, no young scamp you. Give us this day our daily dread, but just bloody give us this day.

Sometimes life is just this sea of unhappiness, a blue-green trick can you turn it. What would it be to love you in utter uncontamination? Note I don’t say purity. Purity is to be avoided at all costs. And decontamination would be the very opposite of love. So this fake un- word will suffice. Uncontaminate me, slowly, please.

Get used to your hunger, wrap it in that cherry-dotted cheesecloth your mother insisted upon you before you left Brussels, no Bruge you correct. A rich city, full of the oils from the pores of thousands of years of Eurotrashy bureaucrats. Moules, frites, Grand Place, Napoleon. The gilded aspect of empire. Yours, this window.

We drive to Waterloo, singing against Abba, you in your falsetto, me an earnest child’s soprano. You sing like you cry, like—you pat my neck and I insist you stop, I’m driving, but really I just want to withhold. To enjoy the game of it. It’s quite a splendid green, this Eurosuburb. We didn’t know what we were expecting, but it wasn’t this. You strike a Napoleonic pose, you are Dutch—and Jewish, like Anne Frank. Well Anne didn’t start out Dutch, did she? And you didn’t start out Jewish.

Everything aims to be born. Crack the egg, mew for milk, cry until something brings food. Fur and feed me.


You were seven, dreaming of cutting your mother’s hair. The golden foot of it, slashed off. You wanted to make of it a pet, a flossy creature of its own. It practically was. Her creature, her comfort. You plotted method; your motive was obvious. Just look at yours: cotton wool coil black as ink. Black as anything. So your mother said.

Back to methods: scissors, razors, night. It’s the wee hours and I’m not getting any younger. Your head beside mine, alone in its dreams. Jaguars, terrorists, toothpaste, botched abortions: such are your dreams. Mine I won’t relay. It’s enough to bleed here, sharing a pillow with your dreams, her hair.

Jennifer Natalya Fink is the author of five critically acclaimed novels, including the Dana Award-winning The Mikvah Queen and Lambda-finalist and Doctorow-prize winning Bhopal Dance. She is a professor at Georgetown University, where she teaches creative writing and co-founded the Program in Disability Studies, and is the founder of The Gorilla Press, a nonprofit promoting youth literacy through bookmaking. She has served as a judge for the Caine Prize in African Fiction. Fink also collaborates with Julie Laffin on “Toxic Tango,” a series of installation performances staged around the globe that disinter the relationship between our toxic world and normative femininity. More here: jennifernatalyafink.com

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