First, you’ll pet an animal and hold your fingers to your lips. Then, you’ll breathe her dander into your lungs, a kinship of particles, so that later, your body won’t attack everything foreign. Next, you can blow out a murk that is sacred as the grave, where mysteries are only fears to a mind steeped in anti-bacterial soap. Finally, hold your lungs in your chest like old forests when they were young. There was no worry, then, for this future. Know that once you were the spreader of seeds through your shit, rich and sweet smelling, micro-veined with connectors. Remember you had dirt permanently etched in your palms and your gut bred the flora of billions.
This fall, our mulberry tree turned bright yellow. Normally her green leaves drift down together after the first hard freeze. Yes, I have made our tree a woman. Yes, I have claimed her. Sixteen years ago, up in Newfoundland, I saw icebergs floating on the edge of land. They creaked and glowed blue. They were the last giants sailing from the north. I’m sure those seas are empty now. Yes, my memories can’t be trusted. I make an alternative world by remembering colors brighter than they were. I make one thing take the place of another. I selectively forget the reasons for things dying. Yesterday morning, the dead hovered together up above the yard quiet and grey in their empty sea. I didn’t have to remember each one— the penguin, the whale, the toad, the beetle, as they merged and leaked into the mulberry’s bareness. I had just watched our woman lose her bright yellow fish. They all swam away from her branches at once.
I am very sad about Fat Friar. Fat Friar was my daughter’s snail that she kept for months. Now he’s dead. Or she is dead— I think a snail is capable of being mother and father, girl and boy. Anyway, the snail is dead from what my daughter calls Broken Shell Syndrome. This disease was brought on by over-handling, accidental falls, an unlicensed snail hospital in the threadbare backyard tent—one that provided bandages made of lamb’s-ear, still soft in the autumn crisp. A snail shell is part of the snail, like our fingernails are part of us. I’ve been trying to make death less scary for my daughter. She is hesitant to bury the body. I honestly miss Fat Friar. Seriously, where have they gone?
Kim Parko is the author of The Grotesque Child (Co-winner 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Press Book Prize) and Cure All(Caketrain Press, 2010). Her poetry and fiction have appeared in jubilat, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Caketrain, the PoetryNow podcast, Boston Review (2018 annual poetry contest winner), and elsewhere. Kim lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she creates in the nested and nesting spheres of mother, partner, maker, and hedge witch. She is an associate professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts.