Elizabeth is my middle name. Karen Elizabeth is my whole name. Karen Elizabeth Lillis is my whole name, but my father’s mother named me Karen E. Lillis when I was very young, and Cousin Caroline named my father’s mother Mimi, when she was very young. When I was five Mimi gave me calling cards with my name on them, the name that she gave me, Karen E. Lillis. When I was six she gave me a stamp with the same name, in cursive. Karen Lillis was the name I wrote on my papers, in school, until twelfth grade, and then I took the name Mimi gave me, Karen E. Lillis, and I have kept it ever since.
Elizabeth is my middle name. It is July and I am just being born for the second time. It is July and I am living in Charlottesville, with my brother Michael. It is July and Beth is living in the apartment building next door. Beth’s name is not Elizabeth, but when I met her I saw her name inside my middle name. Beth drove to Virginia from Minnesota, after she has lived there her whole life. It is July and Beth has just moved to Virginia to start a second life. It is July and I am being born for the second time; it is July and for the first time I am meeting Beth, who is starting a second life in Virginia.
I met Beth on the first day of July. I met Beth on her first day in Virginia. I met Beth and I saw the name Elizabeth. I met Beth and I remembered the picture of the virgin Queen Elizabeth, her sour face and her huge dress, from our history books. I met Beth and I remembered that my friend Elizabeth had shown me the color of night, as it looked on the other side of Rte. 9, in high school. I met Beth and I remembered that Saint Elizabeth was once a story and an etching in an old red book on saints that Mimi gave me.
I met Beth and I remembered the name Elizabeth. I met Beth and I remembered that I used to look at my middle name when I was a young girl, and I used to see the Z next to the A next to the B. I met Beth and I remembered that I used to look at my middle name, and the name Elizabeth once contained the whole alphabet, when I was a young girl.
A Small Wooden Apartment
It is July and I am living on Brandon Avenue. It is July and I have just moved into a small wooden apartment, with my brother Michael. It is July and I don’t remember much of June. It is July and there is nothing much to remember of June, nothing to remember that will be left behind. June was rain, opaque rains, water everywhere. June was my brother cooking for me every day, most meals, except a few that I cooked for us. June was in David’s apartment, down in Fry’s Spring. June was rain every day, and my brother cursing the rain, and cursing the humid that came after the rain, and cursing Charlottesville. June was getting in the car and backing out of our space and getting drenched with the rain water that was waiting in the dent on top of the car. June was wondering what the summer would hold, and June was wanting to leave David’s apartment but not wanting to move too far from Fry’s Spring.
Karen Lillis is a writer of prose, poems, and the realm in between. She is the author of the experimental novels "i, scorpion: foul belly-crawler of the desert" (Words Like Kudzu Press, 2000) and "The Second Elizabeth" (Six Gallery Press, 2009), and the illustrated novella, “Magenta’s Adventures Underground” (Words Like Kudzu, 2004). She has read to many audiences in New York, Pittsburgh, and Paris, and she once went on a cross-country book tour by Greyhound. She is currently based in Pittsburgh.