Amanda Leal

The Telephone Game

Junge Mutter by Egon Schiele

Days after being exposed to coronavirus, I question my body as though a stranger has crept
beneath my skin,
the natural rise of my temperature with ovulation that I am convinced will never fall, my palms to the soles of my feet which bake like cookies.
I lie in bed beside my son and wonder, if I were to stop breathing in this bed, would he naturally curl to my side, like a question mark, as he does when we sleep?
Would he succumb to the heat, our bodies like two palms pressed to the backbone of the Earth? As I study him in bed, he picks up the cardboard cylinder
that he sometimes slips his torso in and disappears. He frames his face to one end, and fits the other end to my temples, as we play the telephone game.
He whispers syllables that echo down the cylinder like butterflies, secrets from his oval face formed to the dark tunnel, cheekbones that fill my hands as a perfect heart,
his irises that shine like bells.
In such seclusion, we could be underground, or tracing the dusky rings of Saturn, outside the Universe like two guests stepping outside a party, into the evening together.
I imagine how I would not let him leave this world alone, his eyes brown as mussels, that reflect even in the dark. I could distinguish their light from any star –
even without sight, I could find the forms of his hands, the flesh of their pads that spread like a starfish. Even now, I know if I lie down in our bed with that fever,
the cone of my hypothalamus revolving slowly in the folds of my meninges, releasing heat like the center of the Universe, I would never let him lay at my side.
I would shrink back as though set aflame, his blonde curls like ivy that fall to his shoulders, his shimmering pink lips open with words barely formed.
I would tell him to go find the things he needs to still tell, that I would wait for him right outside,
as I folded into the Earth like a closed book, to support the firmament upon which he walks.


About the writer:
Amanda Leal is a 27-year-old poet from Lake Worth, Florida. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in issues of Levee Magazine, Sky Island Journal, Beyond Words, Haunted Waters Press, and others. Subscribe to O:JA&L to explore her four-poem collection in the O:JA&L 2021 Pamphlet Series.

Image: Junge Mutter by Egon Schiele (1890-1918). Oil on canvas. 39.3 x 47.2 inches. 1914. Public domain. To view more of Leal’s work in the O:JA&L 2021 Pamphlet Series, subscribe to the OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters through the home page.