Treasure

Tell me how to make this last.

The wilderness waits for you. At night when you’re sleeping, mammals move through dark water like synchronized swimmers, cutting crop circles into your gray matter. Every cautionary tale becomes a map. Your greatest humiliations become your greatest achievements. All insults become compliments, all laments become prayers, each crisis cuts a clear path to the oasis.  

The Burning Giraffe (1937) by Salvador Dali

Outside, the birds are signing to you. Where have you been? What do you treasure? Why did you shut us out for so long?

I don’t have an answer. I can remember flesh like stone. I can remember wanting sleep more than love. I can remember the morning’s hopes hardening into disappointment by early afternoon, turning my bones to granite. I would go looking for something on my screen, and every message was the same: Nothing and no one can help you now. You are an embarrassment.

But the wilderness sorts spirits from birds from predators from cold rock. The wilderness sets your fears on fire until all that’s left is a pile of ash. Sweet and sad, really, a distant memory of sweaty palms. Now you’re hungry again. Your bones bend both ways. That could come in handy later.

Now the grocery store is Easter Island. The elementary school is Stonehenge. “Can’t you see the water rising?” you ask a woman shaped like a totem pole. Her granite eyes tell you that death can’t come soon enough. But until then, there must be baked dishes and good grades and fun for the whole family. I’m a volleyball mom, I’m a PTA mom, I’m just a mom, I’m just, I’m just fun for the whole family. I am a sex doll: inflatable, deflated, useful, helpful, a floaty for the pool, a life raft in a storm-tossed sea, fun for the whole family, a real adventure. Your children will carry their own deaths inside their heads for years, but all you want is to make sure they’re wearing plenty of sunscreen as they drown.

Who is whole? The moon whispers in the night. Dance for me until the dust spackles the cracks in your soles. Dance for me until your fragile heart expands.

No one said I was better than you. My curses are a blessing. Open your eyes.

Open your hands. I want to trace these lines without seeing the future clearly. Let’s listen to the birds together. Treasure this, they’re singing. Save us. The spirits of your dead children are asking you to do something.

Ghosts aren’t so subtle. Their chains are too heavy for poetry. Your disappointment in them clears a path to patience.

I just want you to know that I treasure you. You, with your busy head and imaginary heart. You said one small, fragile thing and the world melted away and I wanted to press my palms into your cold stone and tell you everything. You don’t have to be good enough. A humble mammal upstages the most noble statue. Your greatest weakness is your greatest strength. This steel trap will set you free.