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Alter Ego

by France Burke

We should each have available—there was a crazy woman in the yard last night—a second shelf—she must have been a cleaning woman in the near-sane past—for purposes of scientific control—how else could she go crazy like that? —so we can keep better track—she emptied the garbage pails into neat piles—of the value of our folly—and threw them into a neat row—the wisdomlessness of our ways.

She ran a filthy broom over the halls—with this check, the scientists tell us—carefully took all the hardware off everything—we could follow the logic of fact—housecleaning with a difference!—not emotion and prejudice—and there we were, trying to sleep in a heat wave—there is no outline of what to do with the other self, however.

She started at two, went on for an hour—so I propose—just as we decided to call the Cops—putting a control on the control—she went away—we all remember what happened to Dr. Frankenstein—and we went back to bed—then crash! Another pail hit the flagstones—establish ground rules that both selves—she wasn’t only crazy—be loved equally—she was crazy mad!

“You God damn bitch!” she shouted—that should keep abuses to a minimum—“Get out of here!” she shouted—a creature that is well-treated—she sat and sang, “Bye, Bye, Baby!”—should be well-behaved—then an interlude of steaming silence in the yard—if we could accomplish that—it was decidedly too hot for June—with the existing one we presently have—a freak heat and I could understand how she felt—maybe we wouldn’t need so much experimentation.

If matters were different—could it be love is the answer? —I might toss a few garbage pails myself—I could befriend the other self—mess up the place—like it, build it up, make much of it—wake up the sleeping sons of bitches who call me a bitch all the time—my god! I could do that with me.

But matters aren’t different—I have lost the main point—when she put all the papers in a pile and lit a match—it was to see what happened to both sides—it was clear that craziness has a place—what consequences it developed—and not our yard, but Bellevue—when there is only one of us—the last I saw she was handcuffed—the fact that both ways might be awful—and spitting at the Police—is not relevant.

France Burke has had poetry and fiction in The Paris Review, Rapport, Cimarron Review, and Panache, among others. (Spring 1975)


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