Fiction by Jessica Heron & Art by Jessica Fisher
by Jessica Heron
I know how they talk about Aunt Esther. Her phone calls
screaming at anyone she reached, and her multitudinous shopping sprees.
A woman, a life, confined in a few sensational incidents. Long dead but they still shake
their heads about her. The tongue-clucking women, those talk-talking women,
my mother among them. They had a name for her I knew not to speak.
Uncle Yussey sold their home, mansion decaying in Coney Island,
a vanishing secret, muffled by caked pigeon shit in the attic.
Tiles and wallpaper pieces crumbled in the kitchen sink.
Off to the side, a great room like an antique shop filled with magical things.
Esther’s purchases and their previous lives forever altered by gossip.
Yussey lived with the risk of collapse, and held on until Esther’s spirit quieted to a hush,
the great room filled with just things.
The house condemned.
I know how they talk about her daughter, Cousin Andrea. Former Juilliard dancer,
now third-shift proofreader, isolated, and persecuted
by her imagination. Clung to her father until he passed on.
She is more alone than the others can see,
though one cousin checks on her every so often.
I fell under the spell of their talk –
how sad, what a pity, locked in on herself –
Her eyes lit up when we spoke: I am a proofreader too.
We recognized each other, how our hawk-eyes train on words,
in desperation to achieve order, on paper.
I know how they talk about Grandma Ida, mother’s mother’s mother,
in photos couch-locked, lips locked, eyes dark.
My own mother used her body to block the woman as she’d shout and lunge
for the apartment door.
I remember her distantly, sat still on that couch. A statue staring-off. A silent matriarch.
I don’t know how they talk about me, yet
I keep tall cardboard box towers, turn to prayer,
and process the returns to save my credit
after under all my purchases.
Locked in my childhood bedroom, or the hospital,
when I hurt. A charity case. I beg my bones to be good,
but they keep click-clacking panic,
and I am alone
in ways these talking women couldn’t know.
I imagine echoes of what is coming for me –
how sad, what a pity –
she used to be able, she has degrees –
There is a name for me not even my mother can speak.
I don’t know how they talk about me, yet.
I know how they talk about Aunt Esther, and it’s not
how love held up the walls for her, even as they fell.
I know how they talk about Cousin Andrea, and it’s not
how well she gets along alone despite the massiveness of the world in her.
I know how they talk about Grandma Ida, and it’s not
how she had a great wild spirit in her that needed to get out.
Jessica Heron’s work appears or is forthcoming in The Horror Zine, Black Petals, Angel Rust Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, Let’s Stab Caesar!, and others. She is a poetry reader for Catatonic Daughters. You can find out more about her, including a full list of publications at jessicaheronpoetry.com.
Jessica Fisher is a professional artist and graphic designer living and working in New York City. She advanced her skills throughout high school and college. Jessica’s artwork is whimsical and captures the essence of life. The main focus of her process is on the raw energy of the object to evoke a surrealist and expressionist approach. Her creative process is to have the viewer feel the same emotions she felt while she was creating the piece. She is a mixed media artist with a focus in watercolors. https://www.kosumo-su.com/