From "The Hunger Artist" by Lisa Mannetti
1973: All this time and there were still the dreams. Iva heard the wind soughing in the pines, heard the pines themselves creaking, listing like shipboard masts when they swayed. It was summer, but it was terribly cold; the damp that settled on everything—tables and blankets and floorboards and skin—fled inward to her bones. There was never any moon lighting up these dreadful nightscapes, but she always saw her sister, Callie, standing bare foot by the lake, white-gown plastered against the skeletonized frame of her body, hands rapidly opening and closing like a pair of gobbling beaks.
“I’m hungry, Iva,” she mourned. “I’m so cold and so hungry.”
And it was always a shock when Iva went toward her, and—moonlight or no—underneath the white cotton gown, she could clearly see and count her sister’s ribs.
Then Iva would wake shivering under the hospital blanket. Sometimes she rang for the nurse; sometimes it was enough to turn on the lamp and watch her fingers pinching the healthy flesh of her own hip or arm. Knowledge—certainty—that she was no longer the prisoner starving in the New England woods sixty years ago was balm that warmed her—to a point. Nothing, no one could soothe her completely: after all, her beloved Callie was dead.
"The Hunger Artist" © by Lisa Mannetti
Published in Zippered Flesh 2 edited by Weldon Burge, Smart Rhino Publications, Feb. 2013 ©