Women’s Stories by Tara Propper

Little Sister

The scene is Dad on a staircase. Yellow air.  Sticky-sick sounds formulating.

“He’s like an angel.” There was a banal frame, Macy’s-like, with husband, mother, daughter, son-brother. “It’s the white shirt.”

There are screams. There is a mother clasping head between arms between legs and cracked-door. Legs and arms and matted hair. There is a mother, doggy-style, retching.

A sister’s brother fills the hallway, lengthens spaces, brings yellow light. A sister’s brother keeps secrets kept safe. A sister’s brother knows the root of her and loves.

She laid red roses. She wore an orange sundress. She didn’t see him, clasped hands, caramel-colored. 

The scene is Mom and dad and large-hands grasping. Mom and dad and snot grasping. Mom and dad and hands and arms and love promises and snot. 

The frame is banal, Macy’s-like, with husband, mother, daughter-little sister, red roses lain over caramel casket, snot.

A sister’s brother is rotten, hands clasped. A sister’s brother is secrets kept sacred, rotted skin. A sister’s brother knows her love, rot. 

“This is what I mean by angel:” someone said, “a projected notion of the self.”

Mother and Son

Before, there was nothing that was her own. Then, he was her own. Before he was her own, there was sickness, father-sickness, mother-sickness, alcohol, kicks to stomach, kicks to chest, scapegoat kicks. 

After, she had a gifted son. She was not the kind of mother 
who indulges their children.  She was not the kind of mother who loves, but his piano fingers

reached beyond the kick, beyond the sick. She loved like open palms. She loved like clasping for nothing    but him. 


She worked and saved and work-saved the loss. She kept it like breath. It was a sickness-burden purpose.  She kept it safe like breath. 

She was sent all over. She worked in publishing, not publishing, but worked in publishing. 

She was sent all over. There was a Japanese room. Camera shutter all over. She waked in white room. Blood-red, wine-red all over. The clean sheets captured the wine-bloom, she kept it like sickness, like breath. 

When she returned, the shutter kept her captured, suspended. The people and their things were scenes of stain, of nasty, of sex, of motherhood, of cubicles and baking, of snot.

There was nothing she could find close. The proximity of hands, feet, breath-stench made her sick, made her blood-palms on white sheets, like the room in Japan. Like the room where she scratched and scratched the skin-seams. When they poured and poured like wine, like communion.

The room was clean. She was clean inside of it, death-like, perfect-like, like brother. There was no face-stain, no hands clutching for love, no rotted teeth and mouths chewing. Then the blood let, and she saw herself: eye-holes, nose-holes, rotten to the core.

When she returned, the shutter kept her captured, suspended. She was light enough to float.

Daughter and Mother

I stole my mom’s stories at seven. I kept writing about my alcoholic father and his kicks. I didn’t know they were not mine. 

I felt bad about taking them to my journal, dreaming about suicide, wanting a reason. 

They were something sacred she gave like communion. She’d dole out her hurt, and I’d take it into me, palms open, priest-like, wraith-like. 

Then, ten years passed, and she’d miscarried my brother. She wanted me to take her hurt, again. I pissed it back in her face. 


I think of this now, working against yellow light, making up her face. 

She sits, big eyes, needy.  I am not the kind of woman 
who loves like motherhood. I am not the kind of woman who carries and carries.

The face looks like mine, same lip shape, one-half of her cupid’s bow fuller, more loving. 

She wants to tell me how to blush her cheeks the way she likes. I remember her: blue
eyeliner, pinked cheekbones, sharp jaw, ready to argue. 

I am not the kind of woman who carries and carries and dusts knee-bruises. I am not the kind of woman who can carry the weight of loss and adolescence and music lessons and drug-. I am not the kind of woman who talks to teacher and dusts off knee-bruises and carries the weight of drug- and cleans up toys. I am not the kind of woman who can lose and lose like all mothers do.

I keep her cheeks bare and add my beauty mark, just underneath her right eye, loving-like, 

Tara Propper has earned her MFA in Creative Writing and Ph.D. in English. As a creative writer and scholar, she is interested in the poetic dimension of inhabitation and embodiment, particularly the ways in which physical spaces erupt, interrupt, and disrupt private interiority and vice versa. Her creative work has appeared in The Southampton Review, Long Island Sounds edited collection, Literature Today, Taj Mahal International Literary Journal, and is forthcoming in Moveable Type, Occulum, and P – Queue. Her chapbook, Lessons in Nomadism, is under contract with dancing girl press. Her scholarly work has been published in Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, Feminist Rhetorical Connections: From the Suffragists to the Cyberfeminists, and Composition Forum. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Literature and Languages at the University of Texas at Tyler.