February 2010

Sheila Packa


This marks an author's first online publication Sheila Packa is the author of a book of poems, The Mother Tongue, published by Calyx Press Duluth, 2007. She has also published poems, short fiction, and essays in literary magazines. Her work is anthologized in Finnish North American Literature in English (Mellen Press, 2009). She does spoken-word performance with cellist Kathy McTavish. Sheila lives in northern Minnesota.

The Accomplice

Sometimes, my dreams are elaborate and do not evaporate with the day light, but linger. I do not know what it means. I dreamed of a woman who said she had fled her country, not because of the political climate but because of the domestic abuse of her husband. There was no help for her; he was a dictator. She found work as a window designer in my office (she specialized in bead work and banners) and I took her to be Chinese. She would often get fired for not showing up or for her flares of temper. However, she was able to get the same job back in part because she was a very good liar. She said she had bad toothaches but I could see that her teeth were perfect, white and even. I often admired her; I worked in the same place and yet had never risked anyone's disapproval. I told her this; she lied again and told me that she never lied. Anyway, she was back at work when we received word that her husband and other dignitaries were touring the country. It was a matter of diplomacy. They would be arriving in our area soon. No need to fear, she and I said to each other, and we kept working. Soon he and his retinue were within the city. No one except me knew of the danger she was in should he find her. Finally he was on the very same block where we worked. I kept dropping things. She painted the top half of her face with two wide white and red swatches. She was masked but quite conspicuous. This won't do, I told her, no one masks themselves in such a way. At the last minute, we fled, neither of us asking to leave or notifying our supervisor. We ran out of the city, through an old forest, along the steep banks of a lake and into the mountains. Suddenly the side of the mountain we climbed gave way. After the rubble and dust cleared, we saw a passageway. It was square and lined with black iron. I realized it was the land bridge to Asia. Don't go, I begged her, he will come back and then what shall you do? But she ran through the passageway and the mountain closed behind her. When I returned to the office, I could not do my work. My supervisor ushered in the woman's husband. He had just recognized the banners and knew she had escaped him again and that I had been involved—so now I was in danger. I hid from him by going down a corridor and sliding open a set of folding doors. I kicked off my dust covered boots among others' belongings. I went across the room—it was curiously light inside, as if it were a room without walls or ceiling—and went behind another set of folding doors. Here was a pole and two hangers with two shirts. When I looked back into the room, a bed had appeared, with covers of billowed, white clouds. I tried on the drab colored shirt but realized the other, which was spun of gold, would protect me. I took the drab one off and was about to slip the other one on when the dictator entered the room. I froze with my hand in one sleeve. He walked toward the closet doors. I was half naked and my heart was beating against my chest. I turned toward him. We are in a new country now, I told myself, do not be afraid. But suddenly the room gave way completely and Asia lay before me, with its green, green fields of rice and close by, towering over us, the mountains shaped like swords.



Sheila Packa: Poetry
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