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The Clara Ann Burns Story is an expression of child abuse & neglect witnessed through a patchwork of short prose reflections, poems, one minute plays, scholarly studies, & photographs.

Daring in both content & structure, The Clara Ann Burns Story explores multiple genres & is courageously self-reflective.

The Clara Ann Burns Story, through text and image, offers a map by which to read the geographic/familial underpinnings of our emotional and physical bodies so that we might articulate our own hermeneutic of triumph.”

- Selah Saterstrom

author of The Meat and Spirit Plan

Heidi Ann Smith grew up in Illinois & currently lives in Denver, Colorado. www.heidiannsmith.com/wordpress

MONKEY PUZZLE PRESS

w w w. m o n ke y p u z z l e p r e s s . c o m

T H E C L A R A A N N B U R N S S T O RY

“Heidi Ann Smith’s unflinching novel viscerally tracks the ways trauma can break our contract with language, how it can hybridize hearts and mouths, and how our tongues might, in the end, fork to speak it all: revelatory, plural, here.

H E I D I A N N S M I T H

Fiction / $15.00

The

CLARA Ann BURNS Story

by

Heidi

ANN

Smith


The

CLARA Ann Burns Story

by

H eidi annS mith

MONKEY PUZZLE PRESS


COPYRIGHT Š 2011 HEIDI ANN SMITH ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

- DISCLAIMER -

Any likeness to persons living or dead in The Clara Ann Burns Story is coincidence. This book is an attempt to speak for those who suffered loss and abuse but were deprived the luxury of speaking - it exposes details that might have otherwise been unnoticed, ignored, or forgotten. This story is fictional, but a writer can never extricate his or herself from the creative process.

ISBN-10 0-9826646-7-2 ISBN-13 978-0-9826646-7-4

Cover Art by Jenna Smith Interior Design by Heidi Ann Smith & Jenna Smith Victorian Lady & Lace Brushes by Nadinepau Old Postage Stamp Brushes by Alex Dukal

MONKEY PUZZLE PRESS

PO Box 20804 Boulder, Colorado 80308 MONKEYPUZZLEPRESS.COM


. . . that you will be able to read it, hold it in your hands, on your knees, under your eyes, in you, that you inherit it and guard it, reproduce my pictures and captions — and above all that in my absence you again be seduced in my confession to the point of dying for love.

- Jacques Derrida


Sometimes a story is so terrifying it is easier to imagine it happened to someone else.


WHEN I WA S A S M A L L C H I L D I S AW M Y M O T H E R ’ S S H O E S BEFO RE S HE FOUND ME TO UC H I NG MYS EL F UNDER HER BED I T ’ S N O T T H E FA C T S I ’ M W O R R I E D A B O U T IT’S

THE

TRUTH

I AM

A

BROKEN

GLASS

P I EC ES M OT H ER AWA Y HER TO

MY THREW CUTTING FINGERS THE BONE

001


I don’t remember each moment last

seamlessly flowing from first thing to

but sometimes pieces of the story come to me so clearly

I’m watching myself on a movie screen

I’m back in my old blue mouse

infested bedroom

with my mother and stepfather

become absorbed

like whenever I watch that Godfather scene

Connie and Carlo

only I’m Connie

and as I watch

and they’re Carlo

and

but a boy who called

Carlo slaps Connie across the face

I feel how hard his fist feels

while Connie runs around the apartment breaking the china hitting the floor fist belt

while his other fist

whips my bare legs with the buckle

not to

and drops it

safe place

us

so when Connie takes that

I want her to use it

but she decides

for a split second I think

we found a

and then I see the mistake we both made

this is when

me taking a razor from the medicine cabinet

guts to push down while Connie screams myself

I see myself

my mother picks up his

the camera stays focused on the bathroom door imagine

and

my right breast in his left

breaks my nose

knife out of the kitchen drawer

so when

my stepfather taking off his belt

him straddling my waist

I

with

we’re not fighting about a woman

running for the bathroom door

as if

not having the

the picture fades and I find

just sitting here trying to figure out a way

002

letting the viewer

to tell you


PLACING THE PIECES

TO G E T H E R

003


first comes pressure then light and shades of color and trying to catch your first breath and then you hear yourself cry for someone to comfor t you and you do this for the rest of your life

004


005


A BABY GIRL

IN A SHORT YELLOW DRESS IS LAYING IN A CRIB

ON

THE HEADBOARD IS A DECAL OF A LAMB HOVERING ON A PINK CLOUD THE SHEET IS DINGY

HER LEGS AND FEET ARE BARE

IS PUSHING AGAINST HER PLASTIC PANTS

HER DIAPER

HER MOUTH IS CLOSED

BETWEEN HER NOSE AND TOP LIP ARE TWO ROWS OF ALMOST INVISIBLE BROWN STITCHES CRIB

HER BROTHER IS HANGING ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE

THE TIPS OF HIS SHOES ARE STICKING THROUGH THE CRIB SLATS

WHILE ONE HAND IS GRASPING THE TOP RAIL THE OTHER IS REACHING OVER HIS SISTER’S HEAD TO PLAY WITH A MOBILE OF COAT HANGERS

STRING

THE MOBILE IS MADE

AND STUFFED REALISTIC LOOKING BIRDS

ONLY THE BELLIES OF THE BIRDS ARE VISIBLE TO THE BABY

A

FLOWERED CURTAIN IS OPEN

IS

THE SUN IS SHINING

SQUEEZING HER EYES SHUT

006

THE BABY


baby

stories

I had to drive back and forth from home to hospital after you were born. You had a hole under your nose and the front part of the pallet of your mouth was missing. Even after the doctors sewed your mouth together you couldn’t suckle. It took a long time for you to start talking. Now we can’t get you to shut up.

One time you put your hand in the poop inside your diaper. You smeared it all over. I don’t know what you were thinking.

When your brother was born I walked into the maternity ward in a tight sheath dress. Your father had to explain to the nurse that I really was pregnant. Your brother weighed 4 pounds. He slept all of the time. You were a colicky baby.

008


009


A SIX YEAR OLD GIRL

IS CUPPING AN EASTER EGG IN HER RIGHT PALM

TWO PINK FOAM CURLERS PROTRUDE UNDER A BLACK LACE HAIRNET HER ROBE IS SNAPPED AT THE NECK EASTER BUNNY

HER EGG IS DECORATED LIKE AN

NEXT TO THE GIRL IS

HE IS WEARING A YELLOW COLLARED SHIRT WATCH ONE EGG

HER SLIGHLY TALLER BROTHER A STAINLESS STEEL WRIST

HOLDING TWO EGGS BETWEEN THE ENDS OF HIS FINGERS IS NOT DECORATED

THE OTHER

BUT HIS BUNNY’S EARS ARE LOPSIDED THE GIRL IS FAIRER THAN HER BROTHER EXCEPT HER UPPER LIP IS ELONGATED WHERE A REPAIR WAS MADE

010

IS LIKE HIS SISTER’S

HE IS MAKING A FUNNY FACE HER SKIN IS FLAWLESS TWO BARELY VISIBLE SCARS


when I was five I started touching myself under my parents’ bed felt like

I was giving myself a present

I tried to be quiet

then I

heard my mother’s footsteps moving across the kitchen linoleum saw her shoes

between

the edge of her bedspread and

green carpet I tried to hold my breath her shoes were pointing at me

bedspread

her face was red

dangling me in the air are bad

she said

for help

her hand flipped up the

with one arm

she pulled me out

she hit me wherever her hand landed you know what we do with bad little girls

dropped me on the carpet

I

the olive

I asked Jesus

but by then

it

you she

dragged me down the hall by my foot onto

the cool bathroom ceramic tiles locked the door turned on only hot water pleading

said

strip

and

get in

please let it cool off

picked me up

when the bath was half full

and dropped me in

pulled me up by my hair flailing my arms

I took my clothes off slowly pushed my head under

so I could catch my breath

she asked

did you learn

012

she

when I stopped

your lesson


favor ite

bedtime

story

In 1893, my great grandmother was born in a small town outside Berlin. By the time she was fifteen, her mother and father were dead from tuberculosis and she was separated from her two sisters. Through family connections she became a maid for a wealthy family in the United States. She missed her family and sought comfort in the arms of a man. When her son was born, he was given to a distant relative in Racine, Wisconsin. She claimed no respectable man was willing to forgive her sin and married a bootlegger who became a bartender after prohibition. After my great grandfather died, when I slept overnight at my great grandmother’s house she let me sleep with her in her queen-size bed. After prayers I asked her, “Please, tell me my favorite story.” She told me what it was like being a maid for the rich family. They had elegant parties with shrimp forks and real gold serving pieces. When no one was looking she snuck a piece of cake into the pocket of her maid uniform. Before she went to sleep, she pretended to have a tea party with her sisters, Lizzy and Anna. She held out a glass of water to give each a sip and divided the cake into equal portions. After the party she placed her sisters’ cake under her pillow. She asked Jesus to let her dream about a real party with them. The next morning she scooped the crumbs from under her pillow and put them in her pocket. When she took a break from her chores, she went outside and fed the crumbs to birds, whispering, “Find my sisters and tell them I love them.”

016


THE

AC C I D E N T

SIX MONTHS BEFORE

I

CLARA’S FATHER DIED SHE

HER BROTHER AND HER

I

MOTHER WERE IN A HEAD ON

CAR COLLISION

I

IT WAS SNOWING

FOUR FOOT

I

SNOW DRIFTS

WERE ON

I

EACH SIDE

OF A TWO LANE

I

STREET

THE FATHER

I

OF A GIRL IN CLARA’S

FIFTH GRADE CLASS

I

WAS DRUNK

AFTER

I

THE IMPACT

A GRAY HAIRED WOMAN

I

IN A MAROON BATHROBE

CAME OUT

I

ONTO THE FRONT PORCH OF

HER BRICK BUNGALOW

I

IN HER HUSBAND’S BLACK

GOLASHES YELLING

I

CLARA’S MOTHER

I

WAS PLACED ON A STRETCHER

LIGHTS FLASHING

I

IT WAS HER NECK

A BROKEN NOSE

I

BROKEN EYE SOCKETS FROM

THE STEERING WHEEL

I

CLARA AND HER BROTHER

HAD BRUISES FROM

I

THEIR SEAT BELTS AND

MATCHING BUMPS

I

ON THEIR FOREHEADS

THE ATTORNEY WHO

I

BECAME CLARA’S

I 039

“I CALLED FOR HELP!”

TOOK THE CASE STEPFATHER


BEFORE HE MARRIED MY MOTHER MY SOON-TO-BE STEPFATHER PROMISED HE WOULD “TAKE CARE OF ME” AND HE DID.

040


ONE ACT PLAY

CHARACTERS Mother (pretty blonde wearing three diamond rings) Daughter (16 years old with small scar under her nose and long blonde hair)

SETTING Teenage girl’s bedroom

PROPS Bedroom door (rear stage) Hot pink bedspread on queen-size bed Letter on pillow of bed Light blue walls White lace curtains Leaves on branches of tree visible through curtains Record player Black Sabbath poster over bed An open ballerina jewelry box on top of a wood dresser

One minute before the curtain opens each audience member is handed the following handwritten letter and instructed to read it.

056


Dear Clara,

That

presence

Your

troubles - the

are

of

your

you own

feel

inside

heaviness

of

you

inside

choosing. You

is

heart -

your

are

Satan.

not

a

part

of this world. There is no happiness here for you. Satan

devours

Every

action

the is

souls

of

measured.

even

the

Nothing

most can

innocent.

save

you.

This world is torment. Heed what the Evil One is telling you.

Love,

Daddy 057


The Clara Ann Burns Story is an expression of child abuse & neglect witnessed through a patchwork of short prose reflections, poems, one minute plays, scholarly studies, & photographs.

Daring in both content & structure, The Clara Ann Burns Story explores multiple genres & is courageously self-reflective.

The Clara Ann Burns Story, through text and image, offers a map by which to read the geographic/familial underpinnings of our emotional and physical bodies so that we might articulate our own hermeneutic of triumph.”

- Selah Saterstrom

author of The Meat and Spirit Plan

Heidi Ann Smith grew up in Illinois & currently lives in Denver, Colorado. www.heidiannsmith.com/wordpress

MONKEY PUZZLE PRESS

w w w. m o n ke y p u z z l e p r e s s . c o m

T H E C L A R A A N N B U R N S S T O RY

“Heidi Ann Smith’s unflinching novel viscerally tracks the ways trauma can break our contract with language, how it can hybridize hearts and mouths, and how our tongues might, in the end, fork to speak it all: revelatory, plural, here.

H E I D I A N N S M I T H

Fiction / $15.00

The

CLARA Ann BURNS Story

by

Heidi

ANN

Smith


The Clara Ann Burns Story