The Nine | Ellen Birkett Morris

Beginnings: I was born on a Tuesday. On the same day that the first of two cyclones in less than a month killed 35,000 in India. On the same day as the birth of Salvador Dali, whose twisted, surreal visions unsettle me.

First Memory: I watch as my sister and friend run down a hill, laughing, tumbling like kittens, while my feet were held solidly to the ground by metal braces.

Irony: The old rhyme says Tuesday’s child is full of grace.
a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.
b: a special favor.
c: ease and suppleness of movement or bearing.

Fact: A study showed that premature babies are more sensitive to pain than those born full-term. The study focused on needle pricks to the heel. There was no mention of the less measurable forms of pain, like schoolyard teasing.

Birth Order: The first thing I notice about the old family picture are the Falls City beer cans on the picnic table. I’m sitting on my dad’s lap, my legs hang down revealing the white straps and metal rods of my braces. My mother holds my older sister, who is five. My younger sister, a baby, sits in between my parents in a car seat, her arms reaching out. If she could speak, I would imagine she would say notice me.

Serendipity: My mother, a nurse, is working when she overhears my orthopedic doctor saying that they put braces on children to “appease the parents.” My new doctor recommends tendon release surgery, which allows me to walk.

Sense Memory: My bare feet are cold against the floor. The hallway is long. Dr Colbert stands at the end. I am at the other. My feet make a slapping sound against the linoleum floor. He smiles as I get closer and gives me a square white Chiclet when I arrive. It has a candy coating and tastes of peppermint.

Speculation: I walk, but with a slight limp. There are rumors of a car crash, polio. No one asks, so I say nothing.

Vindication: My lover moves his mouth slowly up the back of my calves and across the back of my knees, kissing each scar individually.

Ellen Birkett Morris’ essays have appeared in The Butter, The Writing Group Book, The Girls’ Book of Love, The Girls’ Book of Friendship and South Loop Review. Her fiction, poetry, reviews and interviews have appeared in The Antioch Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, South Carolina Review, Notre Dame Review, and The Rumpus. She is the author ofSurrender (Finishing Line Press), a poetry chapbook. This piece first appeared in The Butter.


4 thoughts on “The Nine | Ellen Birkett Morris

  1. John Vander Velden

    I loved this post when I read before…I love it more now! As I told you before when we reach into our secret places we find some of the most powerful words and images. Beautifully done with great courage.

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