Anna Laura Falvey
Wendy at School
She was not much used to being jostled. Swept along the cold stone corridor in a sea of like-clothed grey girls who seemed used to walking this way–brisk as the clicks from their patent leather heels, the angles of their faces as resounding as the clipped ashlar blocks they passed, the corners of their lips parted slightly and seeping harsh autumn air like the dead oak windows, loosely sealed with brass hooks. She tilted her head back and stumbled, the heel of her shoe latched by another, her heel scraped while coming out. Mildly painful though mainly irksome in a kind of uncontrollable way, like taking a too-hot sip of coffee, having to contend with a split mouth-roof for the rest of the day, or forgetting a library book at home on the kitchen table after explicitly reminding oneself that it was due that day, and while the book well-wrought, certainly not worth the ten-cent fine.
Despite the reckless risk of more violent jostling, she gazed upwards at the barrel vaults, pacing evenly with her tripping steps. She felt that if she were to time it right, she could launch herself off the back of taller-girl’s shoe and into the cradle of the arch above her head, the felt bowl of her hat, she imagined, fitting perfectly into the highest point of the vault–the crown? the boss? the lozenge?–and stick there, her legs dangling from above the airstream. But her shoe had come loose, and perhaps the risk of it falling down and knocking some brisk, angular girl’s blunt and shrewd haircut was not worth it. Besides, she’d never be able to get that shoe back once it was lost in the sea, the salt grain waves of girl would first dehydrate the leather, then it would crumple and curl like a ballet foot, then perhaps it would fall away into sea foam, fresh and lonely as a mermaid’s voice, but still smelling faintly of cracked black shoe polish and woodblock heel caked with school-must.
Sometimes, the waves below her would gaze up with yellow mermaid eyes, and she would wave her grey body, tattered with sea air and school-must, wave her limbs like a sea mast and gnash her yellowing teeth down at the steadily hauling grey waters. Her jaw would grow gaunt and slack with gnashing, her hair would grow sallow and parched as beached kelp, her bones would turn to hard and frozen sand inside her porous and popping skin. She would not wait to be unstrung; she would be as silent and as constant as the sea below her with the click of her jaw changing course with the winds, her sunken white eyes glowing behind cataracts fixed in place on the vanishing point.
Long after her sand bones had melted and spilled, drunk deep into the sea, she would be hoisted down by some tired sailor (pirates being obsolete, and rightly so), who would try to breathe life back into her slack jaw, but on and on it would chatter, no longer gnashing as the living children would dream of doing, but clipping the air, hollow, like a banging screen door or the remnants of a bell sound under the wind after it had been tolled evenly.
It was then that Wendy realized that she was alone in the stone school corridor, alone with her grey felt hat clutched in her fingers, listening to the remnants of the school bell sound under the wind after it had been tolled evenly, mixed with the chattering sound of gnashing teeth, swirling in echo around perfect acoustics of the vault above her.
Anna Laura Falvey (she/her) is a Brooklyn-based poet and theater artist. In 2020, she graduated from Bard College with degrees in Classics and Written Arts with specialization in ancient poetry and tragedy. She is currently serving as an ArtistYear Senior Fellow and resident teaching artist, teaching poetry in Queens, NY. Anna Laura has recently performed at The Tank NYC, and her written work has appeared in Icarus Magazine, issues 15, 16, 17, & 18 of Deep Overstock, Ouch! Collective, Caustic Frolic, and has been featured on the Deep Overstock podcast.
A Song for Anna