The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Grace Cavalieri

from Breast: Anna Nicole, A Fiction


Why not be happy? the counselor said.
Try to be creative, make things,  
creation is a divine collaboration with God,
so why not try to do something useful? Use your hands,
Why not, thought Anna, why not?
She could start with banana bread.
Banana Bread. There were these rotten bananas
and that's what it took. She always had those. What a mess,
all over the kitchen, the squishing and buttery hands.
Then she ate it. Where did it go? Where did everything always go?
She wished she could play video games
but they went too fast for her eyes and hands.
She almost wished she still played cheerleader
in the afternoon for that old man, the game where she jumped
up in the pleated skirt and yelled for his favorite team.
He said she didn't have a choice in what he wanted to do with her.
The difference in command and management, he said
Why not try to be happy, the counselor had said to her just that morning.
If she was a loser, like her mother always said, where was the finder?
Who would find her? And when?
She could donate to breast cancer but silicone didn't grow lumps.
She turned off the announcement. Once
she heard on TV that if a man rapes you, he steals your soul.
That had always stuck with her.  
That's why she always gave in to men,
so she wouldn't have to be raped, so she could save her soul.


Children were going to school, holding hands,
a mild morning,
the yellow rose was straining toward the sun,
God's word was spoken agreeably in the farm kitchen,
an old lady started a green crocheted kettle cover.
From the highest tree, a wren's sound persisted larger than the wren,
a cigarette was lighted down the street,
a poet walked the perimeter of the lake,
the bark of the beech shone silver,
the melancholy breeze wrapped the jackets.
With the curtains drawn, an eye mask on her face, the bottle on the floor,
Anna lies in the comfort of numbness, disabled again, Thank
God, against the moment after waking, saved from
even the coolness of white satin sheets.
Last night on Court TV, a mother duct-taped her child's face,
to keep him from crying. But she didn't keep him from dying.


Anna was frightened because she felt happyRelief!
Maybe it was the doctor, the Ativan, maybe not.
This was horrible, the feeling
that everything was possible, that
there was help for her, people to help her.
Being happy did not feel right on her form,
like a loose girdle about to fall off.
She covered the mirrors with bedspreads and sheets.
She didn't want to go
back to who she was before,
but if she gave up bad feelings, would she
give up the person she used to be?
And could she afford to lose any more of her self?
She wasn't famous when she was happy.
Maybe this was just crying WOLF
and would not come back again. Maybe
her good feelings were talking about
her as if she weren't there.
Anna wanted to make chicken soup, but
she didn't know how, fear so inscribed on her soul.
She could call her doctor but
men took out their happiness on her,
so could he be trusted with her soup?
Maybe the guy, mowing the lawn.

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