Fairy Arthropods and Absence
for Lori Zurvalec, in response to her drawing A Fairy Tale: Small Girl Encounters Two Arthropods
Through a field of sunflowers, Geraldine searches
for Uncle Jake. She remembers hide ‘n’ seek, the game, but forgets
the rules, remembers, too, sardines. Sardines signal fun, the way
they press together, as if they like each other, eyes staring, half blurred
by mustard or silent, crushed-in laughter. Above her head,
sunflower blossoms point toward the sun, just as Uncle Jake promised,
all but one, which bends toward Geraldine as if to share a secret
or tell a story, like Uncle Jake. Where is Uncle Jake? Might she find him?
Be sardines with him? Would he answer if she called? Or come to her?
If she pleaded? But when she calls and calls, he fails to answer.
Geraldine listens, hears sunflower leaves rustle in a restless breeze.
She wants to watch the sunflowers turn and turn as the sun trundles
across the sky. She points to her fingers, one by one, recalls
that the journey of the sun takes all day. She might get hungry and tired.
She might forget why she stands alone in this field. Already she forgets.
But she discovers arthropods, winged arthropods, insects.
Another day, she said the word arthropod and the word insect
when Jake repeated them to her, twenty times, once for each finger and toe.
And twenty times again. These arthropods seem bigger than they should,
sport red and green faces, bright masks she thinks might hide small secrets.
Geraldine loves secrets, but only when she knows what they are.
The arthropods keep their secrets hidden, hidden like Uncle Jake.
The arthropods scramble among the sunflower stalks, chomp raspy leaves
with giant mandibles. They tear and grind. Geraldine imagines cows
with wings, segmented bodies, giant heads and bulging eyes grazing
among the arthropods. The sunflowers turn their faces toward the horizon
as the sun paints their yellow petals red. Geraldine pulls her Hi Heidi vest
tight around her middle. Some of the arthropods sing; crickets, she thinks.
Pleased, she claps three times, then stops. Frowns. Blossoms begin to droop
and Uncle Jake has not appeared. Geraldine wonders if sunflowers
also follow the moon, if moonflowers sing lullabies, if arthropods
play hide ‘n’ seek, if wolves like cricket song. Geraldine begins to sing,
first the part of the crickets, then the part of the wolves. When the wolves
join the song, the elegy and tears remind Geraldine that Jake departed
some other time, before. Last year or the previous year. He’s gone, forever.
Mary Stebbins Taitt
This poem first appeared in Call & Response: Poets and Artists in Dialogue, Volume 3.
Mary Stebbins Taitt is pleased to have had the opportunity to meet the national poets of Slovenia and climb into the snowfield of their tallest mountain Triglav, with an elevation of 2,863.65 metres, where she saw edelweiss for the first time. She has an MFA in Creative Writing in Poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts and likes to write illustrated children's books for her grandkids. She was nominated for a Pushcart for her poem "A Jungle of Light," was included in McSweeney's Poets Picking Poets, and has received enough rejections to paper a gymnasium.
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