By Peggy Shumaker
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Extra info for Just Breathe Normally (American Lives)
She was laughing, leaning back to grab her mug of strong black Folger’s. A wayward fold snagged her wrist, fed her ﬁngers, hand, forearm between hard rollers. Her face bleached out. Eyes ﬂush with rinse water, she reached and reached — the release just inches too far. Far away, the bones in her arm spread. Exiled from this body, she watched her hem unravel. Beyond her yet, this mending. 32 Beaded Belt, Mt. Rushmore Volkswagen packed tight as a tick on a boxer’s dog’s ﬂop ear, we set out toward the Black Hills, then Rocklake, North Dakota, the mythical place my mother was born, and where she lived in the time before time began.
Think about how when someone else looks closely, there’s a drape between the woman and her own body. It’s very foreign, even when she trusts her doctor. Nobody, no matter how starved for touch, looks forward to a pelvic exam. Nobody sings zippedy-do-dah with her feet in stirrups, even stirrups cozied up in oven mitts. She warms the speculum, my good doctor, warns me before each touch. And still I jump a little, push back from the edge a little, close my eyes to interrogation, no parts private under probing lights.
We hear the lids unscrew and the wings whisper. He mumbles a few words and they rise in unison, a small tornado, that quart of spirit. 36 Letter Carrier, 1957 To keep him out of jail and off that cursed motorcycle, Grandpa Howe got his youngest son, Johnny, on with the post ofﬁce, Point Loma, set him up sweet, substituting, so he wouldn’t by God have any excuse—how could it be boring, a different route every day? Showed Johnny tricks, like how to lean into the leather strap, save your shoulder, or how to walk up hills backwards till your calves got the drill.