Rosamond S. King

Temporary Duty Yonder

        She had been there many evenings and mornings. She never asked for anything and no one ever gave her anything. This night she was not there and I saw her. As I thought about my stiff legs coming up the stairs I saw her socks, not unlike my socks, black and plain, sticking out of her open-toed sandals this November evening. I saw all her clothes some shade of black or dark grey. And I saw all her body protruding in one way or some other from those clothes, her body some shade of dark all over which, like all dark female bodies on the street, reminded me of myself a few lives ago or a few years from now.

        She was not there this November night too warm for the season as many November nights have been filled on a Saturday with humans enjoying the air the way one steals a bite from someone else’s plate and tries to hide the chewing, tries to hide thoughts of what exactly humans have done to cause 65° weather in November.

        I had never seen her ask for anything and I had never seen anyone give her anything. I smelled her shit before, in the grate halfway up the stairs and smelling sweet the way shit does before you realize what you’re smelling. I had never seen her before and tonight she was not there and I saw her.
        I was feeling my stiff legs on each step and looking up I saw her – she was not there and she had two heads. When they were both facing the same direction they appeared to be one head but one was looking in front, across the street, and one was very much turned towards me.

        The head facing me began to speak, or at least the mouth was moving but either there was no sound or I did not hear until she said “can fix that” nodding, “your leg.” I ignored her and kept climbing because I did believe she might be able to do something to my leg and what she could do might fix it and might make it break away from the hip and drag behind me forever. I did not answer her but as I climbed I looked at the faces, her faces which I had not seen before because it is impolite to stare and because she had hidden both of them from me and everyone else climbing the stairs and walking past from some place beyond her to somewhere away from her. She, the head facing me, looked at my face the way you look at your face when you have not examined it in a while and you are surprised and interested in how you look, in how you look so little like yourself.

        Then she didn’t see me anymore even though I was there, dragging my stiff legs up the stairs. One head turned into the other and she sat like that, not there at all, reappearing before me every few minutes until, still breathing, I got to the place where my key fits.

Rosamond S. King

Rosamond S. King is a creative and critical writer, performer, and artist whose work is deeply informed by her cultures and communities, by history, and by a sense of play. Her poetry has appeared in more than two dozen journals and anthologies, including Xcp: Cross-Cultural Poetics, The Caribbean Writer, and the award-winning Kindergarde: Experimental Writing for Children, as well as recent issues of The North American Review and The Cortland Review. Her manuscript Rock|Salt|Stone is forthcoming from Nightboat Books.

King has performed in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and throughout North America. She is an Associate Professor at Brooklyn College and author of the award-winning scholarly book Island Bodies: Transgressive Sexualities in the Caribbean Imagination. Her goal is to make people feel, wonder, and think, in that order.

Photo Credit: Iryna Fedorovska