< Sue D. Burton - Mudlark No. 60 (2016)
Mudlark No. 60 (2016)

Republic’s Girl

Let us praise the interminable graveyards
Dad dragged me through as a kid, the long drives 
down to Wheeling to the Palestine Christian Church, 

the rutted red clay road up the hill 
to Uncle Pete’s farm where Dad grew up, Dad 
with his notebook  

penciling in names and directions. 
Let us praise his example 
of tracking the dead.
If what Swift said is true (all of us only fleas
on the backs of bigger fleas, biting away, ad infinitum), 
if it’s all just a matter of scale,

why can’t my bigger flea be Santorini? — the lost Atlantis,
guidebook Eden, sky-blue sky. Why is my flea Massillon, Ohio, 
dead steel town, U.S.A., truly deserving, but passed over 

as the site for the Football Hall of Fame? —
where even the Cameo Grill’s plate-sized Tigerburger
gave way to McDonald’s.

Everybody’s dad worked at Republic.
Everybody’s dad was always out on strike. 
Or talking strike.  

My dad worked up at Goodyear, open shop. 

When I was a kid, the town was known
for three things: the high school football team (State Champs 
my senior year), the National Shrine of St. Dymphna,

and the numbers games on Erie and Main.
Massillon was thirty thousand then; 
Tiger Stadium sat twenty-two.


St. Dymphna: one of those female saints 
with a missing body part — her

Cut off by her father when she 
refused to marry him. 
He didn’t want anyone else to have her.

Well, everything’s fair in love. 
But who’d ever brag she’s Massillon’s 
own — Republic’s “girl”?

And who’d ever brag that the Headless Woman
at the Stark County Fair has been Kept Alive
thru the Miracle of Science! See her Living Body

without a Head!
But there she is: out on Erie Street, just past 
the graveyard, at the Massillon State Hospital:

a padded red dress 
propped in front of a plywood box with holes 
for some carnie’s arms and legs 

to poke through. Fuzzy red anklets. 
Red battery charger for a head, gold letters: 
Wizard, 6 amp.

Let’s interview the Headless Woman, 
the real woman inside the box —
the one stuck back there in the dark, 

who can’t even go to the can
unless her boyfriend lifts her out.

Sometimes I think about what it’s like inside St. Dymphna’s head. Like I’m this tiny person inside her skull, and it’s dark and nobody can see me or hear me, but I can see out and see everything that’s happening.

Sometimes I’m in there watching St. Dymphna’s father pick up his sword. And I say, Daddy, don’t. But he keeps coming, and it’s dark and nobody can see me or hear me, but I can see out.

I’m in there watching, and I keep saying, Daddy, don’t. But he keeps coming, and he raises up his sword, and he’s bringing it down. And I say, Daddy, don’t! But he keeps coming and coming.

Sue D. Burton | The Reunion
Contents | Mudlark No. 60 (2016)