|Oct/Nov 2002 • Poetry • Special Feature|
Grampa hides sour cherry balls and cashews in his duckroom.
That's where he tries to trick wood into becoming birds, but feathers
are only made of fire and basswood, silent mallards
and cardinals just smell like his white hair, like Old Spice.
Grampa wears a visor that magnifies everything, makes everything sharp
and ready as the chisel in his giant hand. He looks like he's wearing
a mask, and if you make him turn around, you see what makes the mask
into a Halloween one--all the fibers in his eyes pop out, like they've been traced, carved.
The twins and I always play in the basement, and when we hear the creak of Grampa's
chair it's time to stop whatever we're doing. Gramma's always sitting upstairs in her
armchair, her littledog nested between her slippered feet. She's usually watching that
preacher on TV, the one with the wife whose eyes are framed in flapping tarantula legs.
Today the twins and I dig through Gramma's rummage sale crap
like we're hunting for something fresh, we're dogs on the trail
of those wild geese. When we get sick of the same teacups and barnscene
paintings, afghans and artificial irises, we decide to be hungry.
We paw through the freezer, the one we're not supposed to mess around in.
Grampa's in Iowa nailing a Claire's Boutique together like some glittery puzzle,
and Gramma's got preacher on, so all we can hear is his voice booming
We Believers are the minority! and the occasional minibark from Gramma's littledog.
We lean in--all of our bodies could fit inside if they wanted to. But our goosebumps are
heavy as bruises--even our skin wants to back away. I see something: feathers, wings
folded to an icy birdside, once expanding with every breath. I want to shut the freezer
eyelid-fast, but the twins' hands swoop in before I can move mine.
They pull bird after bird from the coldness, cradle the prettiest like they're fancy
chinadolls, only with bonnets made of plastic baggies. The freezer is still open, and
the cold fog makes this a winterland picture, carves it into my eyeballs. The birds might be
waking--the cold fog pretends to be the exhale of something giant, magnifies until
everything looks breathy and just-awake. Now I see where Grampa got his chickadee
from, and his sparrowhawk. Now I see that Gramma's heaven is to be rescued from
the ground, and that forever is to never thaw. And that Grampa's hell is to be wooden,
something whose feathers never had a chance, who'd never be able to thaw into flight.
Ode to Boy
inches, a whistle taller than me;
his hips are the width
of a steering wheel, been
Red-Camaro-boy, he sloshes
sexy around in his clothes, cool
as the glowy blue gin winking in my glass;
my face has never lit over him,
a minority-moon over all those suns,
my hair never spun planet-circles over his body.
Marlboro-boy, smoke rings
splatter sloppy nets bonnet-tight over
petite ponytail girls who yawn to be rescued;
his arm over their doll-shoulders
is cashew-curved, -colored, girls must
lick at it for salt while under his slickery sheets.
Ladykiller-boy, he tips my heart sideways
like a glass, knocks it back like a shot until I look
like I've been shot out the chest;
his heart was born with a hole, a way for him
to wiggle back out, to leave girls behind, to forget the ones
he ran down and beat flat inside that echoing red tunnel of his.