A Prologue to Firefighters Find Curling Thank You Note in the Rubble of Burnt Bungalow
There once was a woman who traveled 10,409 kilometers only to land in the U.S. and be told in the long customs line that she should contour herself into a Thank You note. Later, when she had washed her clothes in the hotel sink and dried them across the curtain rod, she found the business center where she stripped and squeezed into a laser printer, and once she was perfectly flat, she folded herself into a white 4×6 envelope and hoped no one would hear how she essed the th in thank you.
She waited patiently in a dusty drawer until someone used her, scribbled all over her & licked the envelope, spittle dripping on the word You—she thought this was enough. When she was mailed and read and recycled, she shapeshifted into her dream trailer: A Keystone Cougar Half-Ton RV with her windshield sloped at just the right angle (or so she thought).
Visible even though she had not yet earned visibility, stark against gray highways & washed-out strip malls, cars honked their frustration at how much space she took up and how slow she moved. She instinctively knew that the airplane passengers had been wrong. This country wanted pain, a currency she was familiar with since she had been born.
Shrunk again, she drifted into a tiny bungalow in need of smaller objects & every year she transformed in search for the perfect fit—
(x) toddler rocking chair
When she voiced her slightest discomfort, the landlords scolded her & threatened to banish her to the Salvation Army where items squished on shelves waiting to be bought. She had never seen a Salvation Army, but she knew that any place that claimed to save you was a place to avoid. Upon seeing her distress, an ice cube who had been safe while frozen made a simple suggestion before he dissolved: “Think of your deepest fear. That might be enough.”
She fought a memory from back home but within a day she lay diligently on the stove, stared hard at the ceiling & let them cook on her. The hiss of scalding oil drowned out her cries until she had finally endured enough grease that invisibility was no longer an option.
Sally Badawi is an Egyptian-American writer and teacher. Her most recent poems are published or forthcoming in Neologism Poetry Journal, Pink Panther Magazine, Orange Blossom Review, Second Chance Lit, among others. She is currently an associate poetry editor at Typehouse Literary Magazine.