A Memorable Fancy

At the toll booth she stopped to ask who was in charge of the expressway, or future, the words slipping back and forth in front of her. A large-headed woman, her hair roped and lashed about her head, looked up and held out her hand: George Washington. Seven times.

I have no money, she said, suddenly aware that this was indeed a fact, as was the yoke around the woman’s upright neck. Her nostrils flared, her body strained against it, Al Green in the background. Are you a poet? she asked, meaning do you feel that tug? The roar of tires is the rhythm of my day, the woman said, every fourteen cars a sonnet. Behind her the city slickened: vehicles everywhere, idling, honking, revving, stiffening themselves against her. The braided woman did not flinch. George Washington, seven times.

I am lost, she said. Can you tell me where to start?

The braided woman’s thumbs smoothed the air. You can try Port Authority. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

In response to the woman’s kindness, she shared her latest vision: Louis XVI is alive and living in Washington, a staggeringly blind man filling his frame with BBQ ribs and glazed ham. Under his bed he keeps a rifle, thinking a cattle rustler might show up in the night. Deeply suspicious of his dreams he hires a young woman to stand in the corner and lash herself all night as he sleeps.

It doesn’t matter if I see her, he said, it’s knowing she is somewhere lashing herself.
Sina Queyras, “A Memorable Fancy” from Expressway. Copyright © 2009 by Sina Queyras. Reprinted by permission of Coach House Books.
Source: Expressway (Coach House Press, 2009)
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