Daily Archives: October 17, 2011

Seeing Helen Black

By Michelle Reale


A conversation can take any turn. I had seen that look too many times in you to not recognize that life was gathering steam in your gut like a roaring freight train. I feigned a placidness I didn’t feel, tended potted plants that took over the place. I talked to them in hush tones while you tried to get me to look at you. It was something we discussed before, you said, but I was sure that I would not even know what a conversation like that would sound like. You played my vinyl records, taking great pains to show me how you handled delicate things, holding each shiny black disc by its sides. I snipped, watered, rooted and cultivated any variety of houseplant I could. The wildest among them I named Helen Black, all deep roots and curly leaves. That plant reminded you of someone, I could tell. When admitted that one of your wishes was to dominate a woman, I thought of my mother telling me years ago that I had a renter’s mentality, that impermanence was in my blood, but she had me wrong then and you have me wrong now. I asked how much your illusions cost you to keep them fed and sheltered, but you have no answer. The needled drove into the groove of that record, skipping a few times, sounding for the entire world like the heart of a newborn with a hole in it. I could feel Helen Black vibrate and hum in her terracotta pot, filling the room with something we both might need, but would be hard pressed to put a name to, even if we had the guts to do it.




Michelle Reale is an academic librarian on faculty at Arcadia University in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Gargoyle, Pank, JMWW, Smokelong Quarterly, Staccato, Word Riot, and elimae. Her work was included in Dzanc’s 2011 Best of the Web Anthology. Her short fiction collection, Natural Habitat, was published by Burning River in 2010. Her short fiction chapbook, Like Lungfish Getting Through the Dry Season (2011), is available from Thunderclap Press. She has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize.