uncurling slowly to a tune of their own making.
— C.Birde, 4/16
uncurling slowly to a tune of their own making.
— C.Birde, 4/16
transform the crowd you’ve gathered,
random notes to song.
— C.Birde, 4/16
By definition, an accident is a thing unplanned. Unintentional. Unprepared for. Most often resulting in injury or harm, loss or damage. This one was no different — whether deer in the road; patch of gravel; or a gradual drift from within those lines painted on pavement, that passive suggestion to maintain double yellow to left and white to right. The cause is now lost — leapt away into darkness, perhaps, or sprayed out beneath skidding tires, or unconsciously crossed. But an accident, by all definitions, it was.
Where, a moment before, all had been a chaos of noise and motion, all has suddenly jarred to a stop — except for the aged vehicle, which coughs and wheezes, its engine a hymn of syncopated pings. A miracle that the three within remain whole — limbs properly jointed, tendons and muscles snugged over unbroken bones. Bruises, yes — about hips and torsos and shoulders where seatbelts gripped and hugged and held.
Shaken, they slowly exit the vehicle. Cool night awaits. Latticework of grasses. Cloudless indigo sky. Only stars to observe and wink in silent testimony. A boy, roughly ten years old, slips from the back seat. Standing aside, he leaves the back door flung wide and watches as the man pries his grip from the steering wheel to emerge from the driver’s seat. The boy’s gaze remains fixed on the man, who staggers breathless around the door’s extended wing to stoop and bend and reach. Attention unflagging, the boy notes the man’s trembling efforts to reach into the back seat, to lift the infant from her car seat, to settle her — a pink confection — protectively against his shoulder.
But he does not merely observe — the boy listens, body taut, straining. He listens to the disjointed thread of words tripping like guilt from the man’s tongue…the desire to go back, back in time, to avoid this fact, this truth, this stark reality that leaves him, them, frightened, trembling in a dark and weedy roadside strewn with shattered glass, and grateful to be so. To go back and change the course of events. To avoid the accident entirely. But — the boy hears the stream of words catch and falter, change direction — to do so, to go back, to change the delicate time line might mean to go back too far, before she, the infant that even now rests contentedly within the slope of his neck and shoulder, is even born…
All of this, the boy hears and digests. Minute expressions flit over his features, fleet as thought and stars’ chill and distant light. He has heard his father’s fears and grief and desire. For a moment, the boy had steeled himself to try again, to attempt to open another fissure — but upon hearing the completion of his father’s spinning thoughts, he puts such tasks aside. Once was enough. It brought them here, to this place, where they are all together. Each of them whole. None of them lost. Unlike that other stream of time, the one that he had just bent and wrinkled and frayed to extract them all and bring them safely here. His father does not need to know. And, though it does not show — in countenance or posture — the boy is relieved.
Maple’s leaves, still young and pale and sticky with light.
(Dedicated to my friend and walking and writing companion, who notices the small things and gently encourages. Thank you!)
Too soon, too hot —
where addled Winter lingered,
imperious Summer now intrudes.
One rainy April day, or two —
a month that should run
with thawed soil,
dewy damp for all that awakens
thirsty after a season’s rest.
To the south, the earth drowns;
here, drawing the trowel to transplant
clutches of Forget-Me-Nots,
I release gasps of dust.
Fret not —
the Reservoir is full,
the little creeks run;
but I am no Aesopian Grasshopper,
able to fiddle away my cares,
nor that Fable-ist’s industrious ants.
My worries wake me
in the too-warm night to run,
fleet as deer,
through a dry wood,
star-shod hooves raising ribbons
of skeletal leaves
to mark their passage.
Running. Running as fast as 12-year-old legs can run. Through this vast house — up wide staircases, down shadowed halls. Searching. Endlessly searching — floor after floor, room after room. The house creaks and groans with age. My footsteps echoing. My dress whispering. Can’t find her. Anywhere. Must find her.
Reaching the uppermost floor. Pausing, breathless. High above the stairwell, the ceiling flies away, peaks and leans one plane against another. Set in the farthest, narrowest wall — a doorless threshold. Running again. Passing door after door. Stepping beneath that lintel, crossing that open space. Entering a small room cluttered and stuffed with dusty antiques — dark waxed wood, turned legs, clawed feet; silk and gilt and brocade. And, to the immediate left, a mirrored drapery. A shimmering, subtle screen concealing another doorway. Beyond this shifting veil, I see her, my twin, trapped in that other space. Captive. I see them both obscured, edges furred. He, chastising, berating. She/me, weeping.
Leaning, now, against the drape. Pressing right shoulder to its surprising solidity. Bracing left hand over firm folds of gauzy reflection. Forcing my right hand through, slipping it between too-solid fabric. On a molecular level, it parts, allows my arm to pass. Groping. Reaching. Cheek pressing to cool veil of not-fabric. Fingers settling upon her shoulder, clutching, pulling. Tugging her through the barrier, into this glorified closet room. Pulling her to me.
Staring at her, seeing myself. Echoing grins. Hurriedly pushing random pieces of furniture against the not-curtain. Fleeing. Leaving that austere, dark-clad man to curse and rail.
Leaping together. My twin and I descending the stairwell’s open, central throat. Feet lightly touching walls, banisters, rails, newel posts. No need of steps. Gravity does not rule us.
This old beech tree has snaked roots deep into the earth over such a long period of time, it seems to anchor its bit of forest in place. Around it, scores of robins dip their heads to dart and scurry through the leaf litter, while, in contrast, the tree itself moves too slowly for any eye to see — ever upward, ever inward.
Spill of rain —
that chorus of singular heartbeats
murmuring insistant voices
that slip between
the furred edge dividing
I would listen to that
a tidal memory pulling
upon my veins;
I would wear that wild scent
dabbed on wrists and throat,
blue-gray and violet curled
about my ankles.
I would linger in this song,
this memory of rain,
my heart of grief.
— C.Birde, 4/16
The path winds through a meadow, an earthy ribbon parting green. Breeze-touched, the grasses sway and stir, licking my calves with rough tongues as I walk. Though I maintain a steady pace, I fall farther behind with each stride — his legs are longer than mine, cover the ground more quickly. Already, he is a silhouette cresting the gentle slope; his shadow, stretched toward me, an illusory bridge. Both withdraw steadily.
Following the path’s gentle curves, I continue unhurried. The snake, however, brings me up short. A enormous, bright green astonishment, it is coiled and piled in the center of the path several yards ahead. I call out my discovery, but my companion dismisses my concern.
“Go around it,” he says. His voice is muffled by breeze as he disappears over the hill’s lip.
“But what if it’s poisonous?” I must pitch my voice, placing hands to either side of my mouth to project.
A rising tide of wind diminishes his response, if he has responded at all. Stealing myself to circumvent the snake, I see there are now three snakes. Two brilliant red snakes — similar in size and girth and heavy coils — have arranged themselves on the path to either side of the green, one before it, the other after. Stop. Go. Stop. As I stand, dumbfounded, the snake furthest along the path rears vertically upon muscular coils and lashes out at the central snake, sinking fangs deep into the latter’s neck. The two snakes thrash and convulse in a confusion of green and red until the green snake lies limp.
The danger is clear. There is no “going round”. And, as suddenly as I have this realization, I stand in stead indoors, at a polished wooden counter. All around, the steady pulse and throb of laughter, conversation; the polite clink of utensils on dishes, of ice in water glasses. Suffuse light pours through long, wide windows — the only illumination in this expansive, crowded room.
As the young woman behind the counter checks me in for my stay, my walking companion arrives. He unwraps crinkling sheets of thick white paper, empties several snake fillets onto the smooth counter. Pale, pleated flesh glistens softly against dark wood. He informs the young woman that he’d like the fillets plated up for lunch. Stunned, I immediately remind him that the snake was poisoned — not a good recipe for consumption.
Dismissing my concerns — again — he picks a fillet up between his fingers and bites off a large mouthful, chews, swallows.
A nodding head that crowns a whip of green stem, Narcissus dreams during sun and shower alike — echo of light on the bright days, softly luminous on the gray.