Anatomy In Empty Apartment:
Winner of the 2022 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose

Katherine Mooney Brooks

In a building with twelve floors, we are on the sixth, crouching in the bathroom. I have not seen you this way in years, running my fingers over each bone, counting them: fourteen small, hard parts of the face, twenty-four mobile parts of the spine, each a mantle or cue ball to polish with the hem of your shirt. I want to press them into place, press them until they shatter, see the skin depress into nothingness. Instead, I pluck at your elbow, place a finger in the pocket of your hipbone. I fear you will splinter when I touch you. Last week on the phone with a friend you asked what if I lose my leg? Then, as if she couldn’t understand, who is left? Each bone you have named as if to hold in place, each name as if a contract with the corporeal. You ask me to unhinge your mandible, reach into your side and remove a floating rib. Instead, I cradle your skull in my lap. Repeat the ritual: femurpatellatibia.