Some Chipmunk Thoughts
Homes. They are our exteriors, our shells. We once lived naked, no cloth covering our skin, and now we have houses to cover us as well. It is far too easy to become trapped within the privacy of our houses; we forget, or ignore, the life that exists beyond them.
Thinking of this from the cozies of my bed, I realize the hypocrisy and I go outside. It’s early morning, my favorite time of day, but also the time I get to see the least. Maybe that is why I like it so much—because it’s rare. Mornings are never handed to me. I have to force myself to wake up early; I have to earn them.
As I open my door I can’t help but whistle. It’s shaping up to be a fine day: the sky sits still, a pale blue and cloudless. No storms threaten from the horizon. The air smells crisp, like fresh onion. What am I doing out here? I am here proving a point, disproving my previous hypocrisy by spending time beyond the walls of my living room, outside where people walk and talk and greet one another.
Across the street I spot my neighbor walking towards his sparkling car, most likely on the way to work. This is the perfect chance for me to interact with the outside world. I make my way eagerly towards him, excited to start a conversation about anything! When I am halfway to the street, however, he sees me coming, does an about-face and walks back in the direction of his front door. I continue to approach, awkwardly say good morning, and send him a friendly wave. He responds with a strange head-bob and a grunt, says “forgot my keys” to his shirt collar, and disappears back into his house. I guess I seemed too eager.
Since I have already left my own lawn, I decide to keep moving. This day is meant for walking. The first thing that catches my eye is the well-clipped yard across the street—my frightened neighbor’s yard. It seemed lusher today than I had ever noticed. The walkway leading to his yellow door is the only thing that isn’t breathing, popping out from the depths of his lawn. Purple flowers carpet both sides of the walk, calm and plump. They seem tired, the way they fall on one another.
A sticker bush sits not too far away, in severe contrast of the budding little flowers. The bushes branches tangle and twist upon one another, as if battling, as if growing straight were a sign of weakness. They fight and press against each other, poking with their prickly sharpness. They’re dark, and I continue to walk.
Chipmunks are not as rare as you would think. I see them all the time; one darts now from trash can to shrubbery, hastily, not to be noticed. Had I not learned what they looked like from pictures and movies, I probably still wouldn’t know. These guys are little projectiles, throwing themselves in whatever direction they are headed, faster than my eyes can follow. I notice them all the time, but how much do I really see? A blur, a moment. How many live in my same neighborhood? How different are they from my neighbors?
I stretch out my hand, touch the trunk, the forehead,
the tusks. The familiarity surprises me.
Her wrinkles sit deep within her old skin.
I wonder, does she feel my touch?
They say elephants have deep
emotions; they mourn the loss of family
and will sometimes carry bones
of the dead for miles within their trunks,
holding the memory until a suitable
burial site comes along.
Then the living drop the bones of the dead,
covering them with mud and dust,
never forgetting where they were left.
Learning to Fall —revised
Sunlight ignites the shimmering
paint and dripping,
your face falls into flames.
Your eyelashes paint streaks;
vibrant splashes, shimmering hues
blaze with dancing fires.
I blink. I want to see what you see,
drown white-hot blues with your ruby tears,
bold brush strokes.
You choke. Smoke fills the sky; your
color fades to ashes.
Picture of a Workhorse
Among strings of low-growing tangleweeds
and jumbled piles of fallen trees, gathered by
hardened hands of Nicaraguan farmers, a
workhorse stands, waiting.
Outfitted in chains and ropes, he holds his head,
blinks slowly. Sunbeams blanch his gold-white
mane, his bristly lashes, the tips of his pointed
ears. He stands calm and silent.
Strapped to his collar, his pull-cart sags
as farmers toss branch after branch onto his load.
He doesn’t know the farmers’ burden,
and he doesn’t mind the strain.
Unfortunately We’re Neighbors
That pudgy girl
Amy was out barking from
her stoop again last night,
shouting “HEY NEIGHBS” my
way in a voice like peanut butter
sandwiches without milk, her
words and waistline amplified
by a wacky little two-step
that’d put her Irish ancestors to shame.
“HEY NEIGBS” she
repeated and asked
if I had stolen her
firewood. What firewood?
“YA KNOW, FROM THE FIRE WE HAD”
she yapped extra crunchy, her jig slowing
down to a jumpy skulk as I neared
my own porch, her face
eager as a poodle
sent to play in mud.
Maybe your wood burned in the fire,
I said, and opened my front door.
“JUST A MINUTE!”
she begged as I was nearly free,
“CAN I COME IN AND BORROW SOME…”
I Visited On A Day Like This
When the air was June in
March and dandelions mingled beneath
stems of eager tulips.
When plastic bats whacked
balls through the air, sending playful
pings through the green space.
When smiles warmed on faces
of charming small-towners
moseying by with
no real destination.
On the day I visited, a Frisbee
stood for fun, wanderers enjoyed their
yawns, and music blared from windows
didn’t beg approval.
My Recurring Nightmare
involves train tracks and spiderwebs and it’s hard to tell where the tracks end and the spiders begin, considering my hair is often spun around my eyes like cotton candy on a stick, but not quite as pink and hardly as delicious, and relentlessly I run as fast as one can in shoes that are chained to the ground—although, now that I sit here, awake, frightened as a damsel in a 1940’s horror film, I see the spiders in this place aren’t like the real ones—they’re hairy, wolfish, octo-legged conductors, shrieking metallic threats as I jump from track to web, or web to track (it’s hard to tell, considering the hair tornado whirling me blind, powered by the billowing miasma of confusion found only in the unrealities of the semiconscious mind), screeching through raspy little fanged mouths swathed in hideously pink foam that looks something like cotton candy, and claws like the villain’s from a 1940’s horror film, grisly enough to remind me that I really ought to run away, if only these shoes weren’t chained to the tracks.
Laced together sloppily, a pair of sneakers hangs high above me from a telephone wire—they rotate slowly, guards overseeing the grounds of this suburban prison. My feet are bare but I, like the hanging sneakers, scan my surroundings lazily, in search of anything that stands out, anything startling, out of place.
Surprises are many when we seek them. It is December, the air is not heavy, and the blues of the sky are highlighted with wisps of horsetail clouds. The sun glows weakly, but enough to invite excitement, to draw birds and squirrels from their winter nests in search of any source of warmth or food. They are excited, flitting shoppers on the day of a big sale, and their energy flows into me. I walk a bit more quickly and I take in more details: little purple flowers, bright as April sunshine and popping with canary outlines, spot the yard of a house I pass by; earth that has stayed hard and unyielding over the winter months loosens up and wanders, muddying nearby grasses.
Everything about this winter day feels warm, energetic, and confused. Despite the mild air my toes are now freezing—the earth has taken back its warmth, and I feel small.
Our planet works in cycles, seasons pass with relative consistency; plants grow tall and wilt; animals live and then die. Everything falls back to the earth when it is finished, returning itself to the origin of all life, providing for some other being.
The Neighbor’s Baby
A glob of applesauce sprays from
between one soggy lip and the other,
little teeth too scraggly to chew
you’d rather scream than eat.
Mucus oozes from those holes in your nose
splats highchair like paint
on Pollock’s canvas, pistachio
green, sludgelike and milkier
than the bottle you spit in my face.
Your eyelids, purple and glistening like licked
raisins, fight to stay open as your banshee
screams get louder, muffling Dora’s voice
as she chants lo hicimos, we did it.
I’ll never have one of my own
Learning to Fall
With each blink your eyelashes paint
vibrant streaks across these paneled
walls, swift, bold brush strokes dripping
droplets of enchanting blues,
Knee deep in your color I wade
blindly, blink my eyes.
I want to see what you see.
A different picture every time, you laugh,
just hold your breath and fall.