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Origin | Nellie Le Beau | Issue 7

My mother became a secretary

In 1962. She wanted

to go to school,

her black hair pinned

to another girl’s life.

her father refused

her. He coiled

her body inside the hub

of his sixteen-wheeler. She


stenography, short hand, languages

spoken by braised nylons, white

gloves, twenty years of disciplined wrists

raised above a keyboard. Later

she destroyed herself

in six feet of Canada

pruned by Lake Erie, his

wooden boat, his silence.

You have to earn

enough so that when

they come, you can sew

each bill into your coat,

split open

the seam of your pants

for emeralds, smuggle

silver past the guards.

We have come

so far. Switched out

every tooth for rubies,

kept our mouths

closed at the border.

What I am telling you

is not useful. You are safe

until morning. Wherever you are, know

that the window breaks open.

Nellie Le Beau's writing appears and is forthcoming in Cordite, foam:e, Westerly, The Suburban Review, Moving Words, and elsewhere. Her poems have twice shortlisted for the Fair Australia Prize.

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