Back when my head like an egg in a nest
was vowel-keen and dawdling, I shed my slick beautiful
and put it in a basket and laid it barefaced at the river
With her one horrid eye persistently unfastened, a vigilant bird
watched my grandfather during the Great Depression
use each evening of one whole year to wander his corn fields
knowing this world is just one pig after another
As for living to the side of yourself like a pile of rice
in the vicinity of the fish (as for being an eye-self
hanging above a body-self
content with separating cowboy stuff
from G.I. Joe stuff from Batman boxer shorts):
yeah, I've been there, I know what you mean,
don't get me started. There were, in fact,
ten rooms in one house.
And dust and a couch and dirt and lamps.
I was thus the body of the two hands
and the body of the feet
the body primarily of the mouth
demanding bleach. It's not that I was
pitiful. It was more like:
who else would eradicate
this rotten scattering of skin flakes
and hair and spiders
and such? Who else would swab the spit?
So sure it was wholesome at the river
when I was a new mom
but creepy is the point
to live for the wiping of boots
and the soaking of jackets
with my mouth open and my poor tongue sticking out
like I was hoping to comprehend
what was wrong
with being mostly as I say
just the eye part of something
soaking in the grimy particles
while all the other girls went on being actual girls
and I'm sorry to have to say this
since I know it's upsetting
but that's the way it was; I appreciate your asking
come again real soon
be careful watch your step.
I love-love-loved the alphabet
back when I could use it to go OMG & WTF
vis-à-vis some shady late capitalist wrongdoing
such as the rich & famous floating off the continent
in the most flagrant of boats, leaving just
the youngsters & me here on the prairie
to keep everything intact with just this sugar on the mantle
in its charismatic tin. But then the youngsters
got up from the knitting circle & put down their seedcakes
& other organic whatsits, saying OMG & WTF to me
as in in reference to me like what I had on was not just
the dress, the feeling unfortunately was, but also
a shawl as in a cloak as in a stole as in a shroud.
That's when I finally knew what animals
youngsters just naturally are. What piles of tractor parts.
What fishheads in a sink! So now I'm using my Rosetta Stone
to examine the language of rhinos for the impenetrable skin
& the language of axes for the battle for when our foes return
to knock down our pretty little door. & here
I just wanted to sit out the rest of my days
with my sweeties by the hearth & talk the talk to hold at bay
whatever apocalyptic thing's got our number as in our address
as in the extent to which we were born to fight moneyed reprobates
with just our lingo as in our candidness & cheeky verbal fluidity
if that's what you want to call running out the clock on the ends of things
in an old lonesome song like this.
Even the large babes were small.
They were like two empty toilet paper tubes you glue together into a bazooka to blow at the cosmos through.
They were like hummingbirds on a spit.
Hummingbirds, goldfinches, wrens—something that's got its feathers all wet in the rain out there & the wind.
This was back when I was still so young & even more combustible—when all I wanted was to sit on the ledge to the left there & drink a little & smoke.
That is, I was a big fretter—I had a worried brain—I couldn't stop counting what was nineteen inches long—nineteen or twenty—like the foot plus not even the whole calf of my little sister.
Like certain black roasting pans in my mother's pantry.
Like her dark green throw pillows not exactly everywhere.
Like the trees behind the house that worked so hard to be tall & kill pansies.
Like the balusters of banisters spinning on the table in the cabinetmaker's shop.
Maybe that's where they'd make the elfin casket, if it came to that.
I wanted something simple & plain—pine, maybe—something with a texture of goose down as it degraded to sawdust so the baby's littleness could be married inside that darkness to some kind of softness like frayed wheat.
This was when I was twenty-two.
I had, as the saying goes, my whole life to look forward to.
The new little thing was giggling over there on a blanket—eyeing the world as it flitted & sang.
The new little thing was all hot sequin & dazzle & cute pee flaunt.
Nobody was dying.
Nobody was even the slightest bit sick.
Still I sat there wedged inside myself waiting for whatever gods to come on & ruin it.
That is, as regards the serrated heaviness I seem to have to carry along inside me with its old edge hanging like a leaf from the top of the collarbone to a certain nervy line just above the pubes.
I am talking about what feeling that feels like.
What having the little ones did to me & how much each trifling half inch as they would grow would ache.
It is twenty-seven bobby pins in a long, bloody row.
It is a spatula.
It is a rotting harrow.
It is the plough & the rake.
It is the spade.