A Woman of a Certain Age3 min read


F.J. Bergmann
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I do prefer an orphan, whose demise
is rarely noted. Far from nymphomania,
I’ve had no more than twelve since coming here;
less than a hundred moons have passed since then.
Widowed (by reputation), I am demure.
The invitation drenched in heliotrope
that summons them to tea with Truly yours
must seem like destiny, an order, coaxing
some hayseed fumbling with a dog-eared card
and shyly mumbling, “Is this where …? are you she …?”
Beneath dim shadows, under looming elm boughs,
I still can cast ethereal enchantment.
The garden is too bright, where honeybees
hover above an abandoned colander
of scarlet runner beans. One theory
attributes my condition to excess—
perhaps excess of languor? Or possibly
a photophobic idiopathy.
I beckon in my gullible, sweet youth.
His glance takes in the gorgon knobs upon
the balustrade, the mullions fracturing
refracted light to harmless shards, the stacks
of books. The usual query: “Have you read
all of them?” Why, yes, dear boy, I have,
a thousand times (and thanks to you I’ll live
to savor each of them a thousand more).

He reaches for a special volume, hollowed
to conceal needful things: gold coins, narcotics,
needles and syringes. To distract him,
I murmur, “Would you prefer fruit juice instead
of Oolong? It’s so hot.” I slowly loosen
the bodice of my negligée. My fingers
linger on each lace. His ruddy cheeks
go crimson. Sweeping across the polished floor,
I sway into the parlor. Back in the day
when I wore bustles, I turned the heads of all
the gentlemen with my décolleté.
He hesitates. I smile and pat the silk-
upholstered loveseat cushion next to me.
The teapot’s like a steaming silver skull
upon a catafalque shrouded with linen
napery. Translucent cups transmit
a glow pink as exsanguinated flesh.
We are upstairs before he notices
more than a slight sense of dizziness.
I release the bulge of his baton and slough
my swath of robes. His hunger rises, thrumming,
to frolic under the bedstead’s canopy
in a jumble of white sheets. Even before
his sticky zeal dries on the counterpane
I lead him to the bath. Warm water gushes;
his eyes close in his satiated face.
He’s nodding off, afloat, while I crouch naked
at his watery bedside. A vein protrudes
from his left forearm: the prick of a spider’s bite;
he starts to snore, muttering in his sleep.
Implacable, I drain the clawfoot tub,
position him, draped on the edge, balanced
above a bucket. A blade older than I
cuts halfway through his neck. The charnel stench
of blood is luscious; a brilliant torrent runs
into the shallow pool of my cupped hands.
I quench my thirst as gouts of red drip through
my slotted fingers. The carmine river dwindles.
Later, the cooling clots drop heavy as curds.
With newfound strength, I heave the emaciated,
grey-skinned cadaver to my shoulder, descend
to the concealed sub-basement, where another
grave has been prepared. I scatter quicklime,
generous with destruction, and close the portals
behind me when I leave. Out on the lawn,
seven scavenging grackles strut; chromatic
iridescence gleaming on their dark blue hoods.
White trunks of birches stand against the hollies
like stakes awaiting bodies for impalement.
After dark, I’ll amble through the garden,
where a fountain on a pedestal gurgles, thick
with algae. Water I scoop up in in my palm
will mirror only moon and stars. Far beyond
midnight, in the chill just before dawn
disturbs the visions of those who still can dream,
I wander aimless as a wading heron,
humming a refrain centuries out of date.
Whatever fresh hell comes, I shan’t repent.
I toss the sinuous mass of auburn hair
that crowns my head. They say it never ceases
growing, even after death. We’ll see
if they are right. Oh, I shall devise questions
whose answers no one ought to want to know.


  • F.J. Bergmann

    F.J. Bergmann is the editor of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and the poetry editor of Mobius: The Journal of Social Change and imagines tragedies on exoplanets.

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