The day begins with the heart beating, leftover, on the table. It sits there, still beating, still bleeding, and she’s still weeping, pleading even, but the man with the knives never looks at her. He never looks at anything but his edges and the block, and the tubs. His hands touch wood and metal with confidence and love. They touch scale and flesh with confidence and surety. They touch insides with confidence and carelessness.
His hands, not the butcher’s, but the hands of the man who invited her in, long ago, invited her in and up and all the way home reach to touch her and she does not flinch but she wonders if it’s because she’s not sure which heart is hers. The one beating beating warm inside, or the one beating cold outside.
And then come the questions.
Which one? Which one for you? And for you?
It’s only a small thing, only a little pinch. I didn’t mean to, he says. I’m sorry, she says. On a glass plate, under a silver dome, under a trembling hand holding combs that never stay and shawls that are never pinned. Un-dish-cover this, she sings, but she’s old and made of paper, and her rushes are disappearing, melting away in the bottom of the little boat. How many needles can you knit with, before your fingers disappear? How many shelves are there, and is the shape a box, an egg, a rabbit, a mouse, or something altogether darker?
When we speak of the killing and the hurting, do those words belong to the same one, or is the one that’s killing the one that’s hurting? I know she’ll ask herself which is her, and which is not, and how long it will keep beating there, outside of her, a wreck without even the shell to pretend the protection.
How many games will we play before we close the book and wind up the worsted and scold the kitten and brush away the leaves and wake up and find ourselves in a sunny afternoon, and still fifty feet from the pond?
More importantly, when will dinner be ready?