Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2021  Vol. 20  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview

A Bargain for a Boat

Lulu recoils at the noises of motors, mowers,
vacuum cleaners, power washers, the usual
morning in the neighborhood, her small face
coils like a swatted wasp, she glances away
like our visiting fox looking for her tunnel
in the groomed azaleas. Still only three,
she scrunches in my arms and tries to hide
from everything time is hurling against her.
But there’s a little boat gliding over the pond—
she wants down, she wants to run to catch it,
I have to hold her back, so now the tears come.
I feel the warm moisture on my cheek, I feel
the old gravity of sorrow. We stand together
as the world roars and I remember the face
of my mother on the mortuary’s gurney, calm,
as if she has just wakened, and the way earlier
she told me she once dreamed she was destined
to scream all her life, and never know why. I
tell Lulu the boat will come for her one morning.
One way or another, that much has to be true,
even if the air shudders in terror as my mother
said it did during the World War when I came
alive into her arms. Maybe Lulu believes me,
maybe the gods have whispered in her ears,
who appear with their bags of grins, flashes
of joy, the peaceful acceptance that spreads
now over Lulu’s look. Bargain for it, elders
said, promise whatever they want. So now
in my head bent over the pond I imagine
I gut their babies, pour mower’s oil over lips,
nail hips and hands, poison ivy on lids. Gods,
I say, let’s make a deal. I will keep my wrath,
you keep morning a still boat on a black sea.
Like my mother’s face, a rock against my kiss.  

return to top