He digs in the sand, a 2’ by 4’ box about 8” deep filled with treasure: yesterday, a few odd-shaped rocks resembling his thumbs, the exoskeleton of the season’s first Junebug, some twisted twigs, a small red metal car he buried a week ago, sometimes, just the pleasure of shoveling sand over his feet, feeling it trickle through his sandals, between his toes or through his fingers. But today, his small lime green plastic beach shovel hits something hard. So he switches to his mother’s gardening trowel to dig it out, brushes sand from the lid as he adjusts his eye patch to better see a wooden chest as large as his two-year old torso. A miniature backyard marauder, he picks the lock with ease, pries the lid open to discover a few odd-shaped rocks precious as diamonds, a ruby red Junebug’s exoskeleton, twigs of an ancient tree, a shiny red metal car, and, best of all, the feeling of sand running through his chubby fingers as the wind and sun play with his blond hair and ruffle the feathers of his folded wings. Gently, he closes the lid, snaps the lock to, brushes the yellow butterflies from his shoulders before burying the chest so he can dig it all up again tomorrow.
(A found poem composed today of words from a page of “Everything That Rise Must Converge” by Flannery O’Connor)
yet “life” entered
the world–disenchanted with
irony in spite of
Most miraculous instead of
a woman lurched forward
injustice in daily operation.
into his ribs
The woman had
risen sat down
further back in the bus.
A child of carnies, I had to earn my keep. So despite ice-blue eyes, wolf boy became my job, and I was glad; wolf boy was better than a geek. In a suit of black horse hair, sometimes I’d wait quietly in one dark corner of my hay-lined cage, then leap toward the gawkers as they came into the tent— foaming, howling, growling, reaching with clawed hands. The more rabid, the better. I gave them what they paid for, and I didn’t mind. I earned my cut of the admittance fee after the barker, the bearded lady, the half-man, the Siamese twins, and the one-eyed dwarf took their shares. Besides the itchy suit, the only time it ever really bothered me was when a pimple-faced boy and his girlfriend came in to make out. I could smell the hairspray of her Farrah Fawcett hair and the sweat of his eagerness and desperation. Something feral stirred in me. I took too long to remember what I was supposed to be when I saw her, but that’s not what they’d paid their money for anyway. I stood quietly as he led her to a corner of the tent and they started kissing. Then I let loose, really snarling and snorting, not having to pretend too much to growl. Even from there, I could see that his mustache was a meager shadow above his upper lip. What did he have over a hair suit? She stared at me over his shoulder, pulled away, looked down, crossed her arms over her chest, and shook her head. He turned. Looked at me then the ground. Picked up a rock and threw it, hitting me in the shoulder, square in my ego. “Shut up, you freak!” He grabbed her hand and pulled her out. Looking over her shoulder, her hazel eyes met mine. No fear or amusement there. Just confusion and pity. I laid down in the corner next to the water bowl, held my hurt shoulder, and whimpered as the next family came through feeling like a real monster for the first time.
Probably Why I Didn’t Learn to Swim Until I Was 30
When I was finally big-girl enough, I walked across the pasture to fish in the stock tank alone. Over time, that man-made emptiness had mysteriously filled with rain and runoff, green largemouth bass, red eared turtles, yellow-bellied crappie, and black water moccasins. Mama insisted I stand on the mound of dirt piled up years before when the watering hole was dug, long since covered with bahiagrass, black-eyed Susans, Indian paintbrushes, and pink buttercups, so she could keep an eye on me from the living room. The crest a good 10 yards from the water, I could barely cast my line far enough for the red and white bobber to clear the bank or the hook baited with a shiny white grub worm dug from the yard to float suspended in water rather than sit at the muddy bottom. But even with that limited freedom and the dangers of mounds of swarming fire ants, poisonous snakes gliding across the pond, snapping turtles’ heads eerily breaking then silently sliding below the surface, or even falling in and drowning, the murky depths filled with who-knew-what else kept me there casting again and again most warm afternoons, each failure teaching me precision in my aim and purpose in my execution toward something almost unfathomable, to catch or be caught.
My folks saw the value in everything, from mismatched floral tea cups to broken wrist watches, and could never drive past a flea market or a garage sale sign without stopping. So the country homestead, once rustic and quaint, gradually became a warehouse full of their surplus junk, a Texas version of Grey Gardens: Doors permanently closed to rooms packed to the water-stained ceiling with hunting or gardening magazines, paperback books, craft supplies, clothes and shoes of various sizes and conditions, fishing tackle, half-used bottles of lotions and perfume, or makeup still in the store packaging caked in dust. Kitchen counters covered in dirty dishes, outdated or defective appliances and expired cans in cobwebbed cabinets, a wall of retro cooking utensils even though no one cooks.
To counter the house choking with clutter, the yard blooms collections of verdant wonder. Light lavender wisteria adorns the barbed wire fence. Royal purple water lilies grace the water’s surface in a chipped enamel claw-foot tub near the gate. A path to the front door winds through more antique rose bushes than most people will encounter in their lifetimes. Thorny bougainvilleas explode magenta and vermilion from black rubber tires near the front porch.
So grandeur thrives there, too, but would that random splendor exist without such filth to inspire escape or so much gloom in need of disguise?
as you run from the love seat to the front door. You count: 1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 5, 6, 2… You love two’s because that’s how many you are and it’s something you can know for sure. But words are my expertise despite our shared passions for sums and differences, breaking things down and putting them back together.
Two feet to run. Two shoes. Two wings. “Match!” you yell, as you zip past the butterfly pictures and point. But then you remember how a little girl at the butterfly center hollered when she saw a fraction missing from the hindwing of a longwing. You stop.
“Broken!” you say panicked like she was, the trauma of the absence coloring your perception of simple pictures even now. I confirm again that it was, but my reassurances that it could fly despite the deficit still do not comfort you.
“Broken,” you repeat, resigned. Like your age, you’re positive it’s permanently incomplete, some irrational number more than zero but less than one, a negative that nobody can fix.