Forecast for the House of the Seamstress by Angela Apte

While other babies gummed their fists, the daughter of the seamstress teethed on oracle bones and grew to read anything. Tea leaves, a three-card spread, the Lives of the Saints. The villagers, famous for keeping birds – birds that talked, birds whose tail feathers curved like sabres – would stand outside the window of the seamstress. Ask your daughter when I should plant?  Who should my son marry? and What is wrong with this bird?   One day a knife fell to the ground and landed pointing toward the door. Strange men would come, she said. This was not a prediction. This was nineteen hundred and                 It had happened to her mother’s mother and her mother before that. Like them she developed the ability to separate herself from her body and the tendency to count magpies.  One for sorrow    Two for       What came after that?       Three for a girl      Four for a boy       So many babies born she took to reading bedsheets. Little one, your father was a soldier the women of the village learned to say. They taught the girls how to sew, how to stitch a mouth shut. They turned the bedsheets into dresses, added tulle, a length of ribbon. The papers wrote: It’s a dress you’ll never take off. A bird cage in the village barber shop is covered all day because the men believe the song of a bird kept in the dark is that much sweeter. In a different corner the talking bird says tomorrow the weather will be                  and the day after

Angela Apte is a writer and educator from Houston, Texas, where she teaches English and Creative Writing at a public arts high school. She has an MFA in Poetry from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work has appeared in Devil’s Lake, Failbetter, and Mason’s Road.

Photo by amirali mirhashemian