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Marya Hornbacher photo


Marya Hornbacher is the author of Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; the novel The Center of Winter; and the memoir Madness: A Life. Her work has been translated into sixteen languages. Besides work as a journalist, she also lectures widely on writing and mental health. She has taught literary journalism, creative nonfiction, and writing the novel. She teaches at Northwestern University in Chicago.




Photo © Mark Trockman




The Things That Breathe

Reminded of an Old December





The Things That Breathe


I walk around the house, smoothing

The paint on the walls.

Its quarter to three in the morning.

I check the locks and sashes, check the breathing

Of the things that breathe, holding my hand

Over their mouths.


Technically, I think, I could kill them.

I could learn to kill,

Anyone could.

It wouldnt be hard.


Instead, I shut their doors one by one

Go down the hall, stand

At the top of the stairs, and fling myself down.

I fling myself again and again.


I dont really, of course.


I am back at the top of the stairs

Undead, in my nightgown, the

Cacophony of things that breathe

roaring in my ears,

everywhere closing in.





Reminded of an Old December


Its an early summer morning, June, about to rain.

A watery light rises on the far horizon

through the dark stands of narrow trees.

A violet haze lies over the lake,

reflecting the shadow of pines on the opposite shore.

A man lies in bed, rustling

like an animal foraging in the wet brush.

The lake is the color of the tarnished silver

tea set that I have not polished in years.

You cannot see your face in the tea set, as my mother

would have said you should.

It is too old and has never been used.

You can only see the warped shape of your head,

dark smudges where the eyes should be,

a smear of mouth.

I bought the tea set when I was hardly

more than a child, in a crazed attempt

to clutter the house where I lived with a man

Id stupidly married

that July.


I am thinking of an early morning one December, later,

and the trees through the window

and the cold light that came up between them, casting

the mountains sharp, and blue, and violently still.

Birches. White, black-scored against the snow.

There was a lover somewhere in the room.

It is the birches I remember, not the man.

It is the blue jay that flickered

onto a bare white branch,

scattering snow.


The rustling lover, too young to have any Decembers

gathered at the back of his throat, eases

the crags of my softening bones with his hand.

He turns over in bed, sheets hissing like the rain

that has started to fall in the forest outside,

shirring the tight surface of the lake.

When he wakes, he will sit up

and reach for me like a child.

For now, I listen to the rain that hushes

through the trees, surreally green,

and the wet-feathered birds singing wildly

this early morning in June.


©2011 Marya Hornbacher




Author Links


Marya Hornbacher Website

Hornbacher's books at Amazon.co.uk

Two Hornbacher poems in Slush Pile magazine (Issue 2)







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