Through fathoms

leagues

That evening in the leaf pile,
My daughter told me that the sky was the surface of the sea,
And that the trees were many-tentacled,
And that we had to hide by the steps until they left.

The dangers lingered,
Impotent until imagined,
And waving ominous puckered arms,
And we shrieked as we ran
(Such fun to be afraid).
The creatures missed us in the shadows by the bench,
And we tumbled back into the foamy reef.

Perhaps the moon shimmered down
From a higher sky through oceans clear as air,
Or maybe it was phosphorus undulating through the waves.

Whatever it was that lit the deep,
We paddled on through auburn piles
And waded among the grasses, strewn like so much seaweed on our path.
And as we lay in leaves looking up
Through fathoms
Speckled with brown and yellow schools of falling fish,
The deep, deep sky reflected us back
And we felt free
In the peaceful rush of the tide.

We saw and understood something
Of life and its mercies,
Leagues below the sky.

trainspotting

trainspotting

I wonder at your wonder, child
And how it is you hold
Such wonder in those eyes so wild,
For my eyes are so old.

While fresh and new you see each day
My life’s in memories
Which, viscous, float and dip and sway
Like bubbles on the breeze.

That train, it’s bigger than the world
And worthy to be noted,
That name emphatic, sung and hurled,
As if from God you’ve quoted.

And I sit here, so full of years,
(At least it seems to me);
Perhaps it’s all my pride and fears
That change all that I see.

O soak my soul in present light,
And cashmere sky and rain:
Seeing like my children might,
And small before the train.

The Map

piratemap

The playground near me is small, like me. Mom says it’s just my size. I like it because it has a tall slide. But today there’s a kid at the top.

He sticks out his tongue at me.
“This is my slide.”
I tell him that the park district owns the slide.
“No, I’m on it so I own it.”
I ask if I can have a turn.
“You can’t slide until I’m done.”
I ask how long it will be.
“Hours.” And he spits over the side at me.

He misses, and some of it gets on his sweater. I watch him. He wipes himself off and watches me.

I think about my options.

He is bigger than me, so I can’t push him.
He won’t listen to me, so I can’t talk to him.

I walk to the sandbox nearby and sit on a corner with my back to him. I set my backpack down and suddenly notice a crinkled corner of paper in the side pocket. I pull it out and examine it. It has markings and numbers and x’s on it. It has ink smudges everywhere, and it looks old.

The kid slides to the bottom and climbs back up. He slides again. He climbs again. I think he watches me out of the corner of his eye.

I count under my breath as I look at the paper. I look over my shoulder at him. He sees me do it, and I quickly turn back. I stand, and with my head down I mark out paces by the sandbox.

He slides, but doesn’t climb.
“What are you doing?”
Nothing.
“What’s that you’ve got?”
Nothing.
“No, seriously. Let me see.”
It’s a map.
“For what?”
Not telling.

He comes closer and watches me. I stop pacing and look at him.
“Seriously. What’s the map for?”
I glance over each shoulder, then whisper.
Can you keep a secret?

His eyes get big and he leans in.
“Yeah!”
What’s your name?
“Ben.”
Mine’s Pete. Nice to meet you.
“What’s the map about?”
It looks like a map to buried treasure.
“No way.”
Yes way.
“What kind of treasure?”
I don’t know yet. Do you want to help me find it?

He considers.
“What if you’re lying?”
I’m not lying about it. I could use your help to get it.
“Okay. What’s your name?”
Pete.
“I’m Ben.”
Nice to meet you.
“Where do we start?”

We pace along the walls of the sandbox together, looking carefully at the map. It leads us from the sandbox, around a tree at right angles, toward the gate.

Take Elm to the corner of Madison. We get our bikes. Ben has a cool blue ten-speed with racing stripes. He brags about how he got it for his birthday from his rich uncle. I got mine from my mom. It’s smaller, but fast and red and it has a bell that sounds like a boatswain’s whistle. He thinks that’s pretty cool. He says his bike was so expensive that his mom couldn’t afford it so his uncle got it for him.

We bike to Madison. A riddle about a tiny house with books living in it. There’s a house with a little box lending library attached. They have Sea of Monsters. He likes Tyson. I like Grover. We debate.

We check the number by the riddle against a page number. There’s a yellow post-it note with my address on it – “beware the front gate; go to the back.” The back gate is unlocked. We pace thirteen, left four, right twenty, and find a pile of fresh dirt and two trowels. We unearth a cardboard chest.

Inside are two pirate outfits, two foam swords, and a basket full of chocolate gold coins.

“Sweet! You be Jack Sparrow, I’ll be Blackbeard!”
Okay!

We spar and walk the plank and leap from piles of mulch. We eat too many coins. Ben does a great parrot impression.

Dad walks out the back with lemonade.
“Who’s your friend, Pete?”
This is Ben.
“Hi Ben! Cool swords.”
Ben waves it at him and growls.
“Arrrr ye landlubber!”

We get lemonade.

Dad catches me looking at his hand, and wipes a smudge of black ink from it. He winks.

I turn to Ben.

Come on, let’s go hunting for treasure again.

The Archaeologist

archaeology

His brow, it’s taut with focus deep.
Who knows what secrets this place keeps?
The stakes are high and thus require
Determined dimpled chin and mind;
Nothing keeps his focus so.
What treasures will he find?

The finger, slim and nimble, creeps
Down passage long and knuckle-deep.
He snags it, pulls it, draws it out
From depths unseen by human eyes,
And holds it up for all to see:
The treasure that no money buys.

This little blob, he made this heap.
It’s stuff of him, his fruit to reap,
There’s nothing like it anywhere,
Not east nor west nor north nor south.
He transfers nimbly to his thumb
And pops it in his mouth.

Acorns

img_4815-2

Acorns, breathless, released their grip on the old oak, dropped for a heart-stopping moment, and struck gravel.  They rattled several feet from impact, losing their tattered caps along the way, and settled on the creekside path.  Perhaps they congratulated themselves for their bravery.

Little Brooklyn gathered them studiously.

“The squirrels need their dinner.”

Mummy provided a vessel.

“They will love this dinner.  What do you think they will do with it?”

“They make acorn bread and acorn stew and acorn honey and peanut butter sandwiches and acorn cake with pink frosting and acorn ice cream.”

Mummy, whose alternate and mildly educational explanation involved burying the acorns in the ground for winter snacks, thought better of providing a statement of such exclusivity.

“Perhaps they do, Brook. Perhaps they do.”

They trundled down the path, Brooklyn pausing every few steps to add more acorns to her cup. She had a patience for the task that far surpassed the short attention spans of adults. Perhaps due to the notion that their tasks take on increasing importance, adults lose the ability to be patient over time. It is primarily an attribute of the young.

“Brook, we must get home for our own dinner.”

“I’m picking up acorns for the squirrels, Mummy.”

On cue, a squirrel appeared ahead of them.  He jerked his way along the path, pulled by an invisible string in his nose.  He was round in the cheek.  Brooklyn scooped several acorns into her fist and hurried forward.  The squirrel, sensing danger of the toddler variety, scurried across the path and corkscrewed up an old oak.  He chunnered merrily to himself, anxious as any squirrel and enjoying every minute of his anxiety.

Brooklyn spiraled around the tree dutifully.  Following a squirrel ’round a tree seems a primordial pleasure, similar to scratching an itch or hugging those who cry.  Perhaps an eternal hope springs up in our hearts: this time, I’ll catch the uncatchable.

This time, Brooklyn did not.  But she did get dizzy and collapsed to the forest floor, giggling even in her defeat.

Mummy caught up.

“Oh, honey, I don’t think we’ll catch him.”

Brooklyn nodded solemnly. “But we can leave the acorns for him.”

“That’s a wonderful idea.”

And they found a knot near the base of the tree, and Brooklyn unloaded, acorn by acorn, her precious, delectable trove. The squirrel peered down benevolently at this strange little creature and her abundant sacrifice.

Brooklyn stepped back and located the squirrel.

“There’s your dinner!” she hollered up to him.

The squirrel ducked back.

Brooklyn stood looking up for a moment or two before Mummy moved in.

“Time to move along, darling, we have to be home for dinner.”

Brooklyn nodded.”But what about the squirrel dinner?”

Mummy thought.

“Well, Brook, squirrels are suspicious of strangers.  Maybe if we left it there overnight, he would come down and take it off of the root.  We can come back tomorrow and see.”

Brooklyn pondered this, and it seemed good to her. She took her mother’s hand and turned toward home.

For several moments afterward, nothing but the early evening buzz of the woodland was heard.  A rustle, a scrabble, and Mr. Silas Squirrel poked his head around the corner of the oak tree, cautious but excited.  He carried a small burlap sack on his back.

“Hmn, well isn’t that, yes, a wonderful find, yes, wonderful find.”

He rolled the acorns in his paws carefully, checking for spots and mold before popping them, one by one, into his bag. He shouldered the lot and, moving with the agility of many seasons, scampered three-legged up the trunk.

“Hmn, now, Mrs. Squirrel, I’ve, hm, I’ve brought us something wonderful. ‘Tis indeed.”

Mrs. Squirrel bustled over to him and gave him a peck on the cheek, taking the sack in one motion.

“Why Silas T. Squirrel, where did you ever find so many…”

“Oh well, it was, er, nothing hm, now really…”

But Mrs. Squirrel was already excitedly preparing her kitchen for this arrival and didn’t hear the blame-shifting.  This was all for the best, in Silas T. Squirrel’s mind.  He propped his paws upon a chair near the window and leaned back as Mrs. Squirrel prepared her kitchen.

“So, hmn honey bumpkins, what shall we have tonight from such a find?”

“Oh, acorn bread, acorn stew, acorn honey and peanut butter sandwiches for the children, and acorn ice cream and cake with pink frosting for dessert.”

“Splendid.”

And he chunnered to himself.

“Yes, quite a find, quite a find. Indeed.”

 

 

Fewer walls.

Trying out taking the side off of K’s crib.
 
Told the little punk with Extreme Dad Voice that Under No Circumstances was he to get out of bed and roam around the house.
 
I’m sitting on the couch doing Very Important Adulting Things (surfing Facebook).
 
Thumps. Giggles. A blonde goblin in a diaper tiptoes round the corner, looking back at his sister and grinning with the sheer joy of disobedience.
 
Suddenly he spots me sitting on the couch.
 
We stare at each other. I’m trying to be fierce with a straight face. His smile slithers away.
 
He backs up slowly into the room. He may possibly think that I just might not have seen him. Just to be sure, he begins intoning what sounds like an ancient kid-wizard protection spell at me (something like “bed bed bed bed”). He’s determined to lull Daddy Ogre into inaction…
 
He disappears, and there’s a thump and more giggles. He doesn’t come out again.
 
I haven’t got the heart to discipline him for his transgression. Although I’m pretty sure he will end up sound asleep, spread-eagled, on the floor tonight.