|Nebraska Center for Writers|
THE LITTLE THIEF
I recall the day she tore through me, |
squalling anger long into the tiny night.
Later I found dried blood under her tired fingernails,
As if she’d dug her long way out.
Now she’s three and once again demanding
Independence her fingers work
the buttons of her pajama top, slap
my helping hand.
She insists on cutting her own fruit
with a dull knife, sawing melon
and bitter green banana. Smiling
at her messy work, I yearn for a slip
of the blade, a slice of her thumb
and a bright bloom of blood. I’d take it
to my mouth, pressed hard against my teeth.
The tongue remembers well the first taste,
keeps it in the back of the throat.
I’m a young boy, still milk-fed and full
of nothing but hands and knees.
My sister leans into me, her hair holding
what’s left of summer light.
She doesn’t know yet
the raw capability of man, the places on the body
where bruises can bloom like African Violets, that hair
can be yanked from the head like straw
from the mouths of mares, so swiftly
they still chew, teeth striking teeth.
She doesn’t know yet
that the body can be taken too,
in such a way that when you get it back you don’t recognize it,
and you walk around, rattling inside it like a seed,
waiting for someone to split you open
and replant what’s left.
WE WELCOME THE FIRST FEW LADYBUGS
We scoop them from sills, |
eager to let them crawl the terrain
of our cupped palms, keep them
in jars, add stiff blades of grass, capfuls
of water, handfuls of dandelion.
But then we notice more,
clinging to walls, edging
We find them in bed sheets.
the coffee pot, the baby’s round fist.
We spray poison
till red-orange bodies
litter the carpet,
some round and red
as moonseed berries,
some rolled on their backs
, black legs laced together,
sheer wings folded tight
inside shells tipped
like tiny, overflowing cups.
TEACHING RUBY THE J
She’s building you paper kingdoms today,
practical shrines, as she practices
your figure in the alphabet
over and over in wobbly orange crayon.
I show her your form in strict black ink,
and I notice your rigidity
steady straight top soldered
to your ramrod spine.
But your curved belly reveals
you were meant to cradle things:
water, sweet apples, the tiny buttons of a spine
holding together a whole dark universe.