Summer, 1983 They're locked together outside a gift shop outside the Badlands: a statue Indian shaking hands with a statue cowboy. The Indian's head feathers hang down, subdued; the cowboy's hat tilts up at the front— invitation, forgiveness. His six-shooter, holstered, juts out from the wood, and I trace it, guiding two fingers along a well-worn stream that ends at the Indian's leather vest tassels: When I touch them they should be soft but are not. My family floats somewhere apart from me; I do not think of my family. The Indian creeps into the mist of a forest, lifts his hatchet toward a rustle in the distance. The cowboy kicks the ribs of his horse, wrecks onward through a blizzard of dust. And far away the speck of Rushmore's faces scoured—by sun, by wind—one layer more lean.
Note from My Mother
Let’s talk about your long-lost lion puppet, the one true creature you could not live without. Did you know I x-actoed the grasslands of his mane from the Sunday funnies? Did you know that his eyes were not marbles at all? Did you know I pierced a black-eyed pea with a needle and made it his nose? Did you know we all live for a time as creatures abandoned? Bring back the ketchup bottle that you fitted with a wig. Bring back the cocoons noosed to the lid of a pickle jar; the eyelashed mouth of the venus flytrap; the newts and tadpoles; the wood tick, its perfume-bottle grave. Did you know we all live all our lives with coins on our eyes? Did you know that your puppet wasn’t a lion at all until you called him a lion? I made him no one creature in particular; he was cloth with a face, and his gumball eyes were sweet when you licked them and gone in a day.