Birthday Skirt


Linda Tieber

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 126 in 2011.

You are in the role of a young woman
who was tragically raped and murdered.
She is considered the awful symbol of
someone who had a moment of bad judgment
and fell into powerful and dangerous hands.
Here are a number of long skirts,
one of which was the skirt she wore
on her birthday, the one these
terrible scenes are reenacted in.
It still has some pale pink fuzz
from where she was sitting
on a couch at the beginning
of the celebrations.

We are not really sure how she comes upon him.
It is sometime during the party, or maybe after.
What is important are the ensuing scenes,
the hiding, the disguises,
the subversions, the distractions,
the flight on stone streets past jostling shoppers,
through dim alleys,
the climax, the resolution.
No one else is ever conscious of the fact
that there is trouble in their midst,
the world continues to turn,
an abstract background which repeats itself endlessly.
The young woman,
ragged, exhausted from constant fear and constant flight,
realizing the extent of his grip, his link,
realizing the bifold nature of his wield,
that just as there is terror
there is also something wildly attractive about him,
she is taken in by
his fantastical seduction
and her downfall is this inability
to break loose
of his mastery.
She weeps, she protests, she screams,
all the while knowing
that he is smiling,
observing somewhere,
that her attempts to enlist help are futile,
that she will never make it out alive,
that the ending is written ahead of time
and always returns to the same point.

The flight scene is played out a few times.
There is no rape,
more an insinuation,
but in the end
even with his wild attraction
he is death
and finally plunges the knife
into her,
leaving her
no memory
at all.