Either Way, I Whittle
Golden husks whisper like my teachers palms rubbing together under the desk. This is the sound of someone running through a corn field. Whorl like ribbons. Silk like New Years Eve. My teachers skirt makes a corduroy tent between her legs. I slice construction paper in the principals office. Or throw stones into a pile of other stones. Or peel the skin from my hands. Either way, I whittle. On the walk home the air is wet, and I taste limestone and shale and little pulses of damp moss. Our house has birds on a column, tomatoes on a vine, two steps up to the front door. My brother stands on the staircase, a dream.
* * *
They Will Make Us Blind
These are the doves in their cage, put away and sleeping. Bill upon wing. Eye upon eye. Mother tells us not to touch them. They will make us ill with lung infections. They will make us blind. We have rosebushes and lemon trees, both of which have thorns. We have ants chewing through peonies. Our mother says, do not touch any of these.
* * *
All the boys there were full of dust. Sandy hair. Clay fingernails. We drank suicide sodas. My brother held a bat and wore a blue helmet. He slapped hands with the other players. The coach said to be sportsmanlike. My brother scraped across the laundry room floor in his cleats and out the door into the hot afternoon. He had a ring of cola around his mouth.
* * *
This is the sound of the farmers rifle, the dinner bell, the braying, the cut of the hair, the straw bending to dirt. This is the farmer stealing rabbit skins and hanging them out for the birds. Strips of cotton, strips of gray and brown quiver over me. I lie in the lane, a little lace around my neck, and flick fingers and stare into the sky. I close my eyes and try to guess which boy is kissing me. This is the salt. This is the blood. This is my grandmothers soup on Sunday, which I sip from a Chinese spoon.
* * *
Father lectures in chalk-dusted rooms about phyla and kingdoms, families and orders. Desmognathus Ochrophaeus is tendered to the rock of the creek bed. Plethodon Aureolis prefers the scent of its own. The students write in block print as fast as words can come. There is an evening wedding outside the classroom window. When the lecture is over and exams are passed out, bits of a sermon can be heard. The minister, barely a woman, speaks of a fox and a rose and of a boy with blond hair. The guests lean forward in their seats. The groom holds the brides bent hands. There are mosquitoes in her veil, and he wants to clap them.
* * *
(89 words )
Our father has taught us the tulip poplar and the little brown jug. We walk the woods behind our house, with fractions and square roots still tossing in our minds, lifting leaves and looking beneath. In the spring, we follow the black well lines into the forest, past the metal water tank and up to the source. We expect a castle that is never there, to appear over the hill, sunlight pouring from its rooftops. When hearts bursting with love are bursting, we put our fingers inside of them.
* * *
My brother hums his sleep song, and his eyes close then open, then close again behind his glasses. Our mother looks in the rear-view mirror, afraid of seizures. Sometimes in the mornings, she wakes up in his bed. I watch birds on the wires, blur my eyes until they blend magic with the streetlights. There are sparrows and starlings with yellow freckles on the backs of their wings.
* * *
Some nights, like this one, we sleep there, together on a sofa bed with Nanas ferns and snake plants around our heads. In t-shirts and underwear, we smell like the bath. Our mother comes back weeks later with hands tan as wheat, cuticles like morning moons.
* * *
Our father caught us on the mountain road walking behind a car and praying. Our sweaters were stained with dirt from the boys, our doll hanging by a thread. He sat us in the station wagon, side by side. We could see that hed had a Coke and a Hostess Cupcake. The song about riding a white pony came on the radio, and we thought about that for awhile. Then we leaned over the window and looked for the cars that had tumbled over the guardrail.
Return to Archive