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 among the taxing rocks. My beautiful was all hush and glitter. It was too moist to grasp. My beautiful had no tongue with which to lick—no discernable wallowing gnaw. It was really a breed of destruction like a nick in a knife. It was a notch in the works or a wound like a bell in a fat iron mess. My beautiful was a drink too sopping to haul up and swig! Therefore with the trees watching and the beavers abiding I tossed my beautiful down at the waterway against the screwball rocks. Even then there was no hum. My beautiful was never ill-bred enough, no matter what you say. If you want my blue yes everlasting, try my she, instead. Try the why not of my low down, Sugar, my windswept and wrecked.
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.