Grandma points to a photo taken weeks before he died. Says, “It’s October. That’s
you there.” He approaches the bright flash of day. His wig slips back, caught maybe
in the infant’s hand. By the air. Maybe it collapses in a heap. His mouth drawls
a smile open, as if trying to catch his breath, as if each breath slicks back death’s
edge. Glistening as a feather, sharp like a mineral, the voice comes close to breaking.

Every day Grandma says not to climb the silo. Never more aluminescent. Never
more imperative. I spend mornings testing the ladder, pride burns me half-way upwards
and I’m off: space smokes slow up the hill’s wooded knees, shining like the sun’s
hand, the pond’s face held frowning, a mirror: four loose teeth.

Every day she reminds me not to swim. I drown anyway in every green: each
malachite, each jade leaf. The bank hooks me with worms, casts me writhing
into the reeds. I founder. The deep: it swallows. Whole hours I lose, sinking; ceasing.
Birds come to shuffle their black beaks among the rocks. Just as Grandma comes.
Now they’ve dried and taken off.

Sundays we flock to the white Baptist church. They preach a lot about the predicate,
a subject drifting past the moon. I believe it’s too hard to draw a cursive Q. I practice
in the aisles of Grandma’s extra Bible, half-listening to the sermon: Crucified to rise
again. The women couldn’t find him. No Body in the tomb
. I notice ink petaling through;
in Matthew it’s a strand of silking hair, by Mark, a chain of wings clapping, a row of Xs,
Luke’s last black spot.

In the afternoon we perch on stools at the countertop. Grandma gives me
watercolors and a brush, tells me to paint anything I see. Already I’ve painted wings
past this paper’s reach: arcs of time, not feathers.

©2008 Dr. Lacy M. Johnson All Rights Reserved.