Mosaic by Alexandra Lytton Regalado
2016 Neutrino Short-Short Prize Honorable Mention
It’s her children’s knee-jerk cries, the refusal to eat their buttered noodles that has her questioning. Why should she have a handle on language, why should she be able to find a word precise as stickpin in heart of a moth? She doesn’t even know from what window she’ll watch the slow arc of day stretch across the wall. The cobblestones worn down by centuries—what of these brick walls, the engraved cornices, lions growling from the threshold? What of this mosaic embedded—encrusted?—in the wall? What matters is that her husband has left her for a woman with golden coils of hair and she is here, thinking about bits of rock and how to describe their being stuck together. These buildings in years of rain, in a city transforming into any city in the world. The gingko leaves, the spotted trunk of the white ash. There, a family in bright sunlight smiles into a camera while her own children play video games with the nanny. This, her one moment to wander the park, to circle the fountain glinting with her daughter’s wishing coins, to approach the bridge and do as her son does—deep breath—cross over. She’s not the only woman this has ever happened to—his indiscretions in the room she decorated to his taste: ram-horn candlesticks, amber ashtrays, a gold goose-neck lamp—a decade of marriage, one year of silence, and then the quiet break silent as a child gliding down a metal slide into sand—not even a poof—just a slow and even fall, the way a bone slips from its angle and aches, the way a mother dusts off her crying child, stands her straight, urges her to play, doesn’t believe her to know it’s broken.
Alexandra Lytton Regalado’s poems and short stories have appeared in Gulf Coast, Narrative, Notre Dame Review, OCHO, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere. She is the winner of the St. Lawrence Book Prize and Coniston Poetry Prize. Her poetry collection, Matria (Black Lawrence Press), is forthcoming in 2017. Visit her at www.alexandralyttonregalado.com.