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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 5: October 2020
Micro-fiction: 318 words
By Roberta Beary

The Past Is a Foreign Country


My father’s belt rests on the round Formica table, where other families would put a bowl of fruit. I am laughing with my mother at my brother, who is speaking in his Donald Duck voice. Suddenly my father is there. He snaps the belt in the way only he can, and asks me if I want the strap. I can feel my brother’s eyes staring at the worn yellow linoleum. My mother clattering at the sink. I shake my head. My father sits and eats his steak and potatoes. The belt is curled like a pet snake for the whole meal. One that can’t be trusted not to strike.


For Christmas I buy my husband a pair of red suspenders. He puts them on the highest shelf, saying I should know by now he prefers to wear a belt. When he leaves the closet door ajar, I see his belts hanging from their hooks. Staring at me in a way I don’t like. When my husband wants to have sex, I wait until he takes off his belt and throws it on top of the dresser. I want to move it to the closet. But I hate the way it feels in my hands. So instead I shut my eyes.


My brother and I haven’t seen each other in years. Not since my father’s funeral when I talked about my father’s belt and my brother said he didn’t remember any belt. Today I decide to drive to his house. It takes me five hours. In the snow. His house is far away from where we grew up. It is almost in Canada. I ring the door bell. An older man who looks like my brother opens the door. He’s wearing the red suspenders I sent my brother for his birthday. The man smiles at me. Welcome, stranger, he quacks, like Donald Duck.

Roberta Beary’s
Issue 5, October 2020

second collection of short poems, Carousel, is co-winner of the Snapshot Press 2019 book award contest. Her first short-form collection, The Unworn Necklace, received a finalist book award from the Poetry Society of America. Her collection of prose poetry, Deflection (Accents Publishing, 2015), was named a National Poetry Month Best Pick by Washington Independent Review of Books.

Long-time haibun editor of Modern Haiku, Ms. Beary is also co-editor of Wishbone Moon: An Anthology of Haiku by Women (Jacar Press, 2018), and she recently judged the Sable Books Haiku Contest for Women Book Award.

Her writing has appeared in Rattle, KYSO Flash, 100 Word Story, Cultural Weekly, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and The New York Times, and is also featured in A Companion to Poetic Genre (John Wiley & Sons, 2011) and Haiku In English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton, 2013).

Ms. Beary lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, Frank Stella, and tweets her photoku and micro-poetry on Twitter [at] shortpoemz.

Author’s website: https://robertabeary.com/news/

You can also find her on Facebook:

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Tiny Love Stories in The New York Times (8 January 2019); scroll five stories down the page for Roberta Beary’s “Now It’s All Fresh Fish” and her photograph of lobster traps in Clew Bay, Ireland.

The art of brevity, an interview by Ciara Moynihan in Mayo News (22 January 2019)

Lunch Break, a haibun by Beary in Rattle (#56, Summer 2017), Tribute to Poets with Mental Illness; includes audio (17 July 2017)

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