An Origin Story
by Anne Myles
Miss Truth and Beauty my parents called me, with that teasing edge. I put the Keats lines in my
high school yearbook. I wanted what was honest, if not always easy. They found it funny but a
bit trying. I did not think myself unkind. And I yearned for beauty—whatever that was. I was a
devotee of something I could barely understand.
Many years went by.
He wouldn’t tell her she had dementia. He wouldn’t speak the terrible name, its scarlet letter of
decay—if that was even what she had; he never took her to be tested, for then she’d know. I want
to preserve her dignity, he said. Obedience clogged my throat like mucus. What dignity is there
in life, I thought, without facing the truth?
One night I found her up for the third time, dressed, brushing her teeth—about to head
downstairs to make the first of many breakfasts, cups of warm juice and plates of rock-hard
bagels covering the table. She would not listen. He was lost in sleep with his pills. A gust rushed
through me and I hissed, Go back to bed Alzheimer’s bitch!
She pulled my hair and spat at me. My brilliant mother, whom I’d loved. I felt it claim me then,
that truth I couldn’t part from; whoever I’d turn into would have to say it, say it, say it. And
whatever beauty I found in words would come with this: the image of my own ugliness, turning
and turning forever behind my eyes.
Anne Myles is the author of What Woman That Was: Poems for Mary Dyer (Final Thursday Press, 2022). Her work appears in On the Seawall, North American Review, Split Rock Review, Whale Road Review, Lavender Review, and elsewhere. She’s a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee and was co-winner of the 2022 ellipsis Award. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.