6-Pieces1.  A manila envelope. Our names: “Annalise” and “Dad.” Usually he writes “Annalise Mabe,” and “Logan Mabe.” Usually Dad’s script is rushed, informal, as the pen misses its mark with a hurried pressure.

2. A clear, cubed box with a crystallized lock of my ash brown hair from the summer we traveled to Louisville for a family reunion; Aunt Judy cut my long hair short to frame my chin.

3. A torn off corner of blue construction paper. My last molar taped down. It’s a healthy white with dust caught under the sticky side. In fifth grade scrawl I wrote: Anna Mabe 11-7-01.

4. A photo of me and my sister’s fairy feet from Halloween ’92, tulle glittering, wings draped over our white tights and hot glued/bejeweled tennis shoes. Camel-colored leaves bigger than our feet.

Not included (4.1): Mom and Dad. Were they fighting then? Or did they feel lucky just to be windswept, walking together to the grocery store?

5. A progression of Polaroids—my tenth birthday:

5a. My eyes are squinted, closed. I picture Dad saying: Come on, give me a real one. I bear a square, mouthful of clenched teeth on our patio apartment in Three Palms.

5b. Me, grinning over a Boston Cream cake. I smile real, like I’ve just laughed. My sister in the lower frame, her sand-blonde hair tied back in a bun.

Not included (5b.1): Did I forget to wish that my family would get back together? I wonder if I wished at all.

5c. I’m sitting in a neon blue patio chair. My guinea pig huddling in my open arms. I do not cradle her. I look past the camera, to the left of the viewfinder. My mouth falls flat, like Dad; summer-bronzed and sad.

Not included (5c.1): I wonder if Dad sent these because he was cleaning out his home office like he said, or if this was a last parting gift that he couldn’t bear to give me in person. Maybe he was afraid I’d gush too much or knew how my eyes would wet at the edges, at seeing these museum-like trinkets, these souvenirs of my growing up. Maybe he collected these things to try to keep me safe and small, like a puppy you see growing inches a week, knowing that they could run out lost, into traffic at the wrong second. I bet he knew of the family-rooted depression sprouting in my brain as he saw it seep through my face in each blooming Polaroid. I wonder if he thought that by after each exposure I’d be a little more cured of the hereditary malaise, the flat frown on my face, the eyes that were elsewhere.

Not included (5c.2): I look like him. I wonder if that’s what he was afraid of, if this is why he tried to hold onto these pieces of me. As if he thought that by taking me apart, by holding on to the pieces, he could put me back together again, or hold me before I break.


Annalise Mabe is completing an MFA at the University of South Florida, where she writes poetry, comics, and nonfiction. Her work is featured/forthcoming in Booth, The Offing, Word Riot, Hobart, and was nominated by The Boiler for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. She reads for Sweet: A Literary Confection and is an editor at Saw Palm: Florida Literature and Art. She lives in Tampa, Florida, where she teaches creative writing at USF.

Photo by Frank Dina