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Two Prose Poems by Ann Kathryn Kelly

Struggle, in Orange

Orange, the color of sunsets missed all summer as I retreated to a bedroom, shades drawn. Orange in my core simmers, boils, erupts into my neck, my temples, Mount Vesuvius inside me. The color of my hesitation, trepidation, flickering consternation at my doctor’s insistence: a brain scan? Near sixty days of headaches, not six but sixty, my forehead under fire and not a sinus infection, after all. My prescription for penicillin, pointless, as reactionary skin rash blushes, hope flushes [away]. Orange prayers flicker before me, the color of bartering with my god, orange fervor fueling pleas, orange fear at what it could mean, my head all fangs and claws, a bear on hind legs. I look out my window on a late summer day in a room with yellow walls, to a maple tree. Always the first to ignite, tips aglow, before spreading with match-lit speed. My eyes brim at its brilliance, a canopy combusting, stretching to flick the sky in a sunset I do not shut out, this time, behind drawn shades.

Release, in Blue

Pinwheels of pain, blue and bursting, radiate from my shoulder, furious fireworks lit and launching off from fiber and fascia surrounding muscle and bone. Muscle knotted like necklaces jumbled in a jewelry box, tangled, untamed. Muscle curled into a fist I imagine strikes out at the masseuse I cannot see, my forehead in a face pillow as I pull air into an open nostril. A knot releases, an almost audible pop but maybe it’s only the rush of sea swirling in my ears. Thin sheet holds me captive, arms obediently at my sides, and I open squeezed eyes and look past the pillow to the floor and admire shimmery blue painted toenails that peek from Birkenstock sandals. I shift beneath kneading knuckles and a whimper slips out, a timid kitten unable to muster a lion’s roar. Quasimodo appears behind my clenched eyes, a random visual of the bell-ringing hunchback of Notre Dame, and I stifle a giggle as emotions swing. I’m Quasimodo, I muse, Quasimodo in the bell tower, my hump formed from relentless computer work and piss-poor posture. Another knot releases and a tear slips from my eye and I watch my masseuse’s toes curl in her sandals and I wonder what it would feel like to have her walk across my back, blue-nailed toes digging into muscles, dancing out my pain. Dancer Esmeralda to my Quasimodo. I mistake a flute recording for the sound of bells and I smell lavender and I think I may die on this table. As she digs into muscle, pinwheels and rushing sea return. I visualize stretching my back, my arms, my hands to grab a hanging rope. I tug. From above, Quasimodo nods to me from the bell tower, blue skies beyond.


Ann Kathryn Kelly writes from New Hampshire’s Seacoast region. She’s an editor with Barren Magazine, a columnist with WOW! Women on Writing, and she works in the technology sector. Ann leads writing workshops for a nonprofit that offers therapeutic arts programming to people living with brain injury. Her writing has appeared in a number of literary journals.

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