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The Mustache

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Everything about the young foreign taxidermist was overdone. Did he absolutely have to wear the apron with the tiny red castles in the shop? Or weave, at night, in and out of the trees? I don’t think so. I would bring him buckets of ice water day after day hoping he would just cool off a bit. Fact is, he never did. But to be fair, he really was practicing what the papers called, “heroic medicine.” It was love. I admit it. It was fancy love. I was the envy of the world, being hitched up with such a genius, and that felt good. Of course, these days, I can’t touch rope or a small child without thinking of him. Without expecting his large hands to come out of nowhere. We were, as mother said, both “slowly losing our minds.” He’d talk for hours about hygiene, the Water Cure for example, and wrote an award-winning essay on the Electric Bath as a way to treat hysteria in the female fox. “Too many foxes,” he would say, shaking his fist, “too many foxes running around like chickens with their heads cut off.” In the winter months we would ride our bicycles down to the scrap-metal yard where he would make love to me in devout silence. The delight in his eyes when he found that small cage! He was both tender and rough, and I had never, and will never again, be as touched by another man. I didn’t notice the black mustache growing slowly but unmercifully on his left shoulder until two or three years into the affair. At first it seemed harmless. A small patch of dead grass. But eventually I couldn’t help but only see the large dark field. Its silent twitching. By then it was already early fall, and the fact is, it tore us apart.

Sabrina Orah Mark, “The Mustache” from The Babies. Copyright © 2004 by Sabrina Orah Mark. Reprinted by permission of Saturnalia Books.
Source: The Babies (Saturnalia Books, 2004)
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The Mustache

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  • Sabrina Orah Mark grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She earned a BA from Barnard College, an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a PhD from the University of Georgia. She is the author of the book-length poetry collections The Babies (2004), winner of the Saturnalia Book Prize chosen by Jane Miller, and Tsim Tsum (2009), as well as the chapbook Walter B.’s Extraordinary Cousin Arrives for a Visit & Other Tales from Woodland Editions.
    The poems in The Babies are haunted by invented characters and fabulous details; mysterious fates, wars, and historical events are hinted at, and characters navigate relationships and terrors in a series of surreally twisted prose poems. Commenting on her unique style, Mark, in an interview for Apostrophe Cast, explained that her maternal family speaks Yiddish and that her syntax has been influenced by their speech patterns.
    Mark’s awards include a National...

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