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Cartouche by Lucinda Kempe

The mother knows her D will be furious: “I threw them away with the recycling. They’re no good.”

Taping the images together, the mother takes an iPhone shot, then dismantles the hieroglyphics, imagining herself a pharaonic priestess after the Pharaoh has been overthrown.

‘Should I post them on FB?’

Her D will never see. Her D spurns FB.

Busy with the new husband & cat, the one the mother’s son calls “Pickles.”

This pilfering of her D’s art distracts from the 19-virus coiling in her bronchi.

Like Nefertiti, like Akhenaten, Tiye, & the six daughters lost in their erasure by the other priests, she feels erased by her daughter.

Like mothers before her afraid they might die,  

She spends her recuperation editing—the bedspreads, the sofa’s pillows, underside of the toilet seat,

Laving them in bleach.

Her D who innocently spread the virus.

She stays silent as the zeret bird flying over the Nile,

flying in the hieroglyphics of a deposed king resurrected by a man named Glass.

The mother has become She who reexamines the panels, sees herself as a new hieroglyph.

A nude anime lightly penciled in, a scary mask in white on black,

a body dissected,

a dismayed expression on its paper face,

and a tiny white heart alone in an expanse

of noir.


Hear Lucinda Kempe read her piece


Lucinda Kempe’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Bending GenresThe Disappointed Housewife, Yellow Mama, Unbroken Journal, New South Journal, New World Writing, The Southampton Review, and The Summerset Review. An excerpt from her memoir was short-listed for the Fish Memoir Prize in April 2021.

Illustration by Eleni Gavrielatos

Ash Wednesday by Gary Fincke | Boys: A Duplex in Prose by Sarah Freligh | Cartouche by Lucinda Kempe | Diversification by Colette Parris | Trolley Rocket by Sumitra Singam | The girl goes by Cathy Ulrich | Eleven years after I left, brunch by Karen Walker