American Muse: Mary Jo Bang


“Two Nudes”

I was working in a bookstore and as an antidote
to the twin torment of exhaustion and boredom,
one day I went with a friend on a walking tour.
We made it as far as Berlin and there I met the
man I would move with to a boarding house, then
to furnished rooms in the flat of a civil servant,
and from there one morning in January to the
Registry to be married. Afterward we moved to a
studio apartment and two years later to the
school where boys returning from the war would
remove their collars and sew them back on with
red thread to demonstrate the end of their
allegiance to the cruel and fastidious past.
Everyone wanted to be launched into a place
from which you could look back and ask whether
the red was also meant to enact spilled blood. You
could say so, but only if you want to insist that
history’s minutia is best read as allegory. The fact
is, history didn’t exist then. Each day was a
twenty-four hour stand-still on a bridge from
which we discretely looked into the distance,
hoping to catch sight of the future. It’s near where
you’re standing now. One day we were lying in
the sun dressed in nothing but our skin when a
camera came by and devoured us.

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