How the World Was Made


Paint over wall-splatter on the kill-floor and certain patterns arise: Spiders, the Florida peninsula with all its lakes, my grandmother's wrinkled hands. After the kids have been put to bed, I pull out a notebook, put the patterns down as best I can.

Some tell the future by examining entrails. Examining what's in the stomach will tell you something about the land around you. I draw lung bronchi, broccoli, veins inside a bulging eye, molars of a sow, a pair of dice.

When the wind shifts south, slaughter-smell crosses the river, stings the eyes. It burrows into the skin, into my closed-eye bathroom thoughts. It's stronger out here than when I'm down on the kill-floor.

Inlets and the branching creeks across the back of a leaf, the willowy currents around knots of wood, seams of coal, the levels of a sagging wedding cake: A trail. I dip my brush in the bucket of whitewash, make a long stroke with one side of the brush, make a long stroke with the other, cover it all up.

Something's been circling over the river these past few nights. It's no bird. I paint walls in the morning, draw patterns at night. I am trying to keep it from coming through one of the windows. The scream it makes is the scream that comes between the first and second blow.

number 20 in the 2River Chapbook Series