Travel notesIssue 04 | April 2009

Beneath Mandorla Skin

by Victoria Forester Courtland

I attempt to carry your eyes with me on this journey to Siena, but the weight of my own sight is exhausting. My eyes, once quick with observation, slip down inside my belly and I look around with a hunger for comforts, familiar voices, quiet nights, your arm a belt around my naked waist. Here, I’m falling and I careen around these streets with a ticker tape heart sliced up into thin ribbons that flutter away, one by one, against the ochre walls. My mind is rife with family and all that cannot be undone. My whiteness. Your blackness. The mandorla skin of our child. When I return to you, I am certain I will be someone else.

The unfinished cathedral, raised from bianco e nero marble, is heavy with the admonishing heads of popes leering down from the triforium. They scowl as if they had just caught me with my fingers between my legs. Outside, a lizard basks on a jagged wall in the afternoon sun. Forget the canopy of sinners slain across the swollen womb of the Duomo. Forget the desiccated head of Santa Caterina in San Domenico’s reliquary. Forget Santa Lucia bearing forth her bloody eyes on a platter. The lizard crooks one eye around like the automatic focus on a camera lens and I feel the shutter of my heart. Release.

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About the author

Victoria Forester Courtland’s fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in Bathtub Gin, Washington Square, and The Worcester Review. Her piece, Mandorla, is based on the searing hot walled city of Siena, Italy, where she experienced little reprieve from an assault on the senses.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

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Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok