At six degrees above zero, her small breasts seem more frozen than usual, the ugly-but-cute bears doing winter things sweater she models for eBay like a loose map of the history of women. My mother turns her backwards while tightening the sweater’s red buttons. Because: the men in our house, because: her instincts tell her form for form’s sake is unnatural, must conform.
In a square with red geraniums in Warsaw, we choir girls shopped for pretty, strange things to put in our pockets. Naturally, we looked at nesting dolls, those perfectly painted ladies with a body for each secret. Later, after a long concert and too much cake, my host father quizzed me about the Holy Ghost, offered to speak in tongues, to teach me to speak in tongues—as if I too were a doll in need of filling.
As snow fell, the thrift-store filled. Amish girls disguised as old women in Alfred Dunner sweaters cluck over their customers. The vase, white floral-and-bamboo china named after some dynasty, is a lonely object of beauty. A village will do that to you. The German dialect my sister and I speak one side, the pair of jeans I hold longingly the other side. I buy the vase for what it can hold.
After Christmas, Mom and I brought home some white Lido Beach sand, as if to remind ourselves that the small, dry bodies of dead creatures make beauty, too. We piled the family’s shell collection in a prominent place of coming-and-going: on the desk with the glass top and small gold lamp, close to the shoes and coats, where we eat apples in a hurry, and sometimes prop the cores up against this tableau as if to say: we are dying, we are lovely.
Charity Gingerich's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Arts & Letters, Ruminate, and Indiana Review, among others. In 2016 she was a Tennessee Williams poetry scholarship recipient at the Sewanee Writer's conference, where she had the pleasure of working with Robert Hass and A. E. Stallings. Currently, she teaches literature, creative writing and poetry as an adjunct at the University of Mount Union, in Northeast Ohio.