The wind lifted me from the concrete,
and I bobbed safely down the hill,
my toes glancing through the green grass
as Sally Field’s hat shepherded the breeze.
If I cut through the park on my way downtown,
I passed the Indian boy’s house–Jon-Jon,
now upright in the valley like the burnt
stump of a oak felled for firewood.
He said nothing but smoothed his hand
over the blue T-shirt skin of his belly,
and I picked the close, white clover flowers
untrammeled in the springy grass nearby.
It is a way of opening up–this dream,
a way of letting the park, the uneven pavement
of the road, the rusted swings, and Jon-Jon
with his collapsing wood house open up.
The spring is eternal here; the grass sways
one way in the wind and tickles my ankles
and makes a path of shadows as if hiding
a stream rich with tadpoles and glistening sand.
“Sheep showers,” Kelly called them, and we found them
in the damp patch of clovers next to the corrupted see saw,
and we shook them free of ants and dirt,
then crushed handfuls into our mouths.
The taste was like half-dollar-sized sweetarts
on our tongues all at once and going nowhere,
but the foreign feel of leaves and stems in our throats
was even better than the sweetness.
It was like eating the world and nothing like
the dream of the sailing white hat carrying me
into a cool valley where Jon-Jon and my 6th grade boyfriend
waited and took my hands to keep me from floating away.
If we ventured past the sheep showers, the piss smell
hit us, invading the park like a pack of dogs,
all madly, vainly marking their territory, but boldness
might carry a few of us over to the concrete walls.
Buddy and Billy and the other bullies with shortened names
burned branches and left beer bottles in the empty rooms
where the toilets and sinks used to be and spray-painted
the words they knew best on the gray, cracked walls.
My 6th-grade boyfriend had blue eyes the color
God invented to show off with, and his black hair
lifted lightly when my hat flapped, and the valley
jutted up and leveled out to become the world.
On the flat surface of the world, the green grass rippled
with the wind all blowing the same direction,
and, magnetized, Jon-Jon moved away from me,
like the rook in a travel chess game.
If I left the park early enough I had time
to take the long way home and avoid Jon-Jon’s
where the weeds always hid snipers, his brothers
with slingshots and rocks big as my kneecaps.
In May, the prison band played for Founder’s Day,
and the park swelled with bacon-fed bodies,
women who declared to fix up the bathrooms,
men who drank whiskey and circled the park.
David found a place in the pasture behind our house
where the honeysuckles grew into massive bushes
over the fence, and we made houses there, and we ate
the honeysuckle, pulling out the rich white center.
After I rose from the concrete, I smiled an idiot’s smile
that never fractured Jon-Jon’s stoic expression,
and my 6th grade boyfriend grinned at my bare feet,
white and unstained, stretching toward the clovers.
In July, the sheep showers were littered with gunpowder,
spent bottle rockets, and the colorful, scattered remains
of Black Cats and ladyfingers, stark and obvious
against the brown grass of Oklahoma, mid-summer.
At the park entrance, a peach tree grew round
and lush and never flowered. Each fall
its leaves turned rusty orange and covered
the busted sidewalk to the ruined world.
NOTE: This is a combination of a flying dream I once had and memories of the little park near our childhood house in Locust Grove, OK.
3 thoughts on “Eating the World”
Amazing imagery! My mouth is puckering at the thought of a field of sheep showers.
Surely that’s a poem waiting to happen–“Nostalgia Carnival.”
your piece made me have a nostalgia carnival