Issue 13

Autumn 2014


The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

The fold-out ironing board in my apartment
seems old enough to belong here.
It’s a rickety thing held together
by wire- and nail-shaped rust.
The cover is yellowed, fraying, scarred
by scorch marks. I don’t know
what sort of people lived here in 1950
or 1980 or whenever these dust fossils
inside the swinging door were formed.
We never iron. I discovered this artifact
looking for the air filter. We don’t have one.
We’re expected to open our windows

to stir up the stagnant dust. Dust is full
of dust mites, tiny animals that eat
our pillows and then die considerately,
leaving their exoskeletons to replace
the polyester. Dust mites are eucaryotes.
My mattress is a catacomb. My dad bought it
in Ohio where there was once a sea. I live

in Norfolk where there is a sea. The sea
is full of echinoderms. There is paint
chipping off our walls. I’m forever taking
little chunks of it away from the cats.
The pieces look like sand dollar doves
with layers like stromatolites. Lead sinks
to the bottom of everything. This apartment
has been re-painted 63 times. The base
coat is Ordovician, Pre-Cambrian, so old
it remembers the trilobites. We have

water bugs. In this case, “water bugs”
is a euphemism for giant cockroaches.
Real water bugs bite people’s toes. No one
seems to care for all this information.
It may as well be written in the graptolites.
I’m fairly certain I was supposed to be
a colonial species. My roommate and I
don’t talk much and she has never seen
the ironing board. I think it’d be happy here.


Ellie White