Gritty Details

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tonight's Poet Corner: A Small History

A Small History
by Belinda Roddie

My future walks behind me; my past
lies still ahead. The underbelly of
Atlantis is exposed despite the rising
sea waters. It is scraped raw and pink
from thousands of years of exposure
to salt and seaweed. I will sail to
the underwater kingdom. I will towel
off its shivering naked body with the
sun wrapped up in a windy shawl.

In the period between life and death,
I shall dig the tunnel to the light deeper
and wider, and shape the bones with my
sharp hands, my angular hands, pointed
like shovel blades as they pierce the inner
cheeks of God's mouth. Accidentally,
I rupture two canker sores, and Heaven
is covered in yellow and white, thin
membrane to keep the angels in.

I am no time traveler by trade: I do not
wander backward in my years. Instead,
it's as if my childhood stories are reborn
in the tales of my own children - even
the bad ones, the ones that have thorns
and scratch out the eyes of the prince
as he aimlessly ambles toward
the endlessly rising tower. Grim, mealy

ghosts prop themselves up on perches
of brick and plaster. They dangle
pocket watches on long chains as I pass.
The past does not fade; it turns to steam
in a boiling pot, but the air cools, and
the precipitation wets the nose and makes
the eyes burn with the iodine sting
of undesirable memories and dreams.

I don't pay attention to the dogcatchers,
the mailmen or the tax collectors. Their
uniforms are mostly starch, dissolving
on their slabs of flesh. They wait to pick
up unsuspecting strangers by the Dine and
Dash. One scratches the folds of his waist;
the skin expands and contracts like the
body of an accordion. He wants me to

follow him to his Volkswagen and growls
when I do not listen to him. Like an animal
still chained to its umbilical cord. His teeth
collecting ashes like coffee grounds. He chews
and swallows dust like gritty clam chowder.

When I die, I will have relived the days
of a child in purgatory. Breathing the air
I breathed before, recycled and purified by
an old empress's anxieties. She hovers
above my head and watches each part
of me go gray. She wishes she could
offer me a drink from the fountain
of youth, but I am already young at
heart, remembering my earlier years
very much against my will.

Father, crown your grandchildren with laurels
and let them run naked in your backyard again.
Balance your bottle on your belt and smirk at
their reckless abandon. Turn on the sprinklers
and flood your kingdom with water heated
in a snake's green digestive tract. There, my
children will be submerged, and like Atlantis,
they will return to their oceanic mother's womb.

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