Marching out of childhood
They’re running under the trees, crushing the sunset-shaded blossoms, fine nets stretched between, catching eggs. Corinne and Michael play the same games I did; I’d join them, but-
“Is the thread ready?”
“Yes, mother.” She squats, takes an egg from the basket. The needle glitters, in one end and out the other, pulling the waxed thread through. She cuts the string and holds a lighter to the wick. It hisses and then, warmed by the flame, the egg rises. After an hour’s work, the cloud of lights can be seen for miles.
Dad will come home. They’ll all come home.
End of the World, This Time in Key.
She’s been practicing trills, letting the notes bounce against her uvula, roll through the cavern of her mouth. Cross-eyed until she can’t focus anymore and rubs the blue-veined lids in frustration. Her huffed sighs are swears, probably at us behind the mirror. It was arpeggios last week; bitonal hums the week before.
Brian was on his fifth cup of coffee when she got it to work; resonance crumbling plaster into a fine cloud. He had to hunt for the red button and by then, she’d taken another breath.
Afterwards, I swear I heard the secretary humming Mozart and looking hopeful.
They don’t teach you this in kindergarten.
They scurry along the floor, dark wood gleaming, in the outline of a hand. Almond fingers, nails ragged, tap a complicated rhythm that keeps them dancing. Of the three thousand silverfish, fifteen have eaten the formula for immortality, six have the rainbow sheen, one will cross the teeth and tongue during complicated incantations.
“To think I’d have such a back-sliding sha bi of a granddaughter,” blind All-Father warbled from the corner, “we’ve invented alchemy since then!”
“Only nine more days of binding, old man.”
Silk robes stiff with potent embroidery, she grins in the shadowed murk of the empty hall.
Dear Penthouse, I never thought this would happen to me.
Emily was leaping over the balcony. No one to stop her, the jubilant bounce of her sneakers, the taut joy of her well-shaped calves. She shared her noisy exhalations with the summer night, landing straight and tall on the pavement. Chalk sketches brightened under her steps, lines wriggling with the upbeat percussion of her humming heart. The buildings around shrank down to manageable sizes, skulking on the horizon, as she trip-trapped her way down the street, fingers snapping at the flowers. Overhead, the clouds applauded wildly with staccato bursts of lightning. Encore after encore, the greatest show on earth kept moving, starring Emily.
They promised they’d take care of her.
The dog dragged her over to the railing, cart wheels squeaking. She vibrated slightly in the snappish breeze, admired the horizon where blue faded to white. Planes in their holding patterns over the nearby airport were great metal carrion. Well, she wasn’t leaving them much to pick over. The legs were bad but the arms, pocked, scabbed and needle-stabbed, were strong.
“You were always my ally,” she said, “tell them they killed every dream but this one.”
The dog nodded and watched her slither over the edge of the roof.
It listened for the thump, then left to fetch another.
At the bottom, he’ll be a man.
He slid down the hill, black hair causing the breeze, hands sliced open from the grasses. The smears of blood sprouted robins that whirled away from the sun, hovering near the boy. When he laughed, it hid, blushing behind the trees, setting their buds aflame, only to puff and wheeze to catch up and keep its eye on him.
“This is a journey of great importance,” said the boy.
“Death is the only thing that waits,” replied the sky.
The town was fast approaching and he grinned at the great, wide world.
“We’ll see what can be done about that.”
Life Before the Well.
They have been there for weeks, below the level of darkness, beneath the packed earth passageways. Holding hands always, he and she, moving without light.
The knives in her hair are polished pearl, a gift from their mother. The curses she heaped upon them trail behind in the iron dust, whimpering piteously in thick, burbling voices.
The man consumes their weariness, sucks it down like water through thin, strong lips. He is lost on these roads. She guides them unerringly down.
At the end of the depths is Grandfather Stone. When he speaks to their sorrows, all can be forgiven.
Current line in the dirt.
The pennants stretch for miles over the sea, fluttering fire pinks and obnoxious yellow, silk snapping away the seagulls. They wave from the tail of a rickety boat.
The boy is a stick Buddha, his arms and legs skimp and akimbo, his belly round and brown and filled with an angry roaring. He blows the handkerchief sail full, leaping up and down as he does so.
She steers, blue eyes and black hood, walking without feet, smiling with vermillion teeth.
Where the pennants end, the sea boils with dolphins, rubbery gray ripplings, leaping.
They know where the boat is going.
Only the righteous may enter the kingdom of our brethren.
She sits on the narrow window ledge, toes curled into the floorboards to hold herself there, stares out into a world on fire.
Chin on hand, fingers to mouth, she does not bite her nails, thoughtfully watching the siding buckle and curl.
She speaks to the faint, ugly angels behind her. They look defeated.
“This must be really embarrassing.”
One of them shuffles his feet, a dry scratching, his wings bumping against the walls. They look naked without their spears, currently scattered across the front yard, keeping the conflagration going.
“I’m going to enjoy watching you tell him.”