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The Sparrow’s Sister

One evening, the moon felt lonely and called out to her brother, Sparrow, “Dear brother, come tell me of your journeys out into earth.” He hopped down from his nebulous perch. “Oh, I cannot speak of such sorrowful things.  Perhaps a bedtime story from the stars would be a better nightcap.”

Moon tucked her chin deep into chest. “Well, maybe so, but she gives me such beautiful green, blue and white light, just like a marble dancing on a sunny windowsill.”

Sparrow stroked his sister’s cheek, leaving dimples with his wing. “You have been borrowing my poetry without permission, haven’t you?”

Moon shook her head furiously. “No, no! I came up with that line on my own. I’ve started writing letters and sending them to my dark side.”

“You have? Isn’t that dangerous, though?”

Moon fanned out her fingernails and studied them closely. “No, I don’t think so. Well, I am not quite sure, but it just felt right.”

“Well, as long as you aren’t leaving your post here in the sky. All of the earth’s villagers need you at night.”

“What, really? I thought they had artificial lights there, and now there are screens of all kinds covered in faces just like mine.”

Sparrow laughed. “No, nothing like yours, but go on.”

“They won’t miss me if I go, I am sure of it.”

Now most of us know Sparrow as a humble bird. Jesus described him as being worth half a cent, and had been wanting to show humans his worth for a long time. In fact, he wanted them to be less arrogant, and thought a trick might take them down a notch or two.

Sparrow said, “You know, why don’t you invite your dark side over for a cup of tea? She could keep us company as we watch the meteor shower tomorrow.”

Moon agreed, and she drank a glass of star juice before heading off to bed, as the light was getting brighter with the sun’s arrival.

In her dream, the dark side appeared to her in a form she did not recognize as herself: a skinny woman with a short, black bob and blue eyes. She was reading a book of poems, though, so Moon knew it was her.  The darker sister heard the clock strike midnight, then tucked the book away into her satchel and rode off into the night.

Moon couldn’t remember what vehicle or animal, which made her morning yearning even worse. “Ah, if only I had seen the license plate or the make of horse. I could have caught her.”

Sparrow chuckled as he heard her mourn the missing detail. “Sister, she is a part of you, and she is coming over for dinner. Or did you forget to ask her?”

“I am pretty sure she is coming tonight. That’s what I saw in the dream.”

“So you asked her in the dream to come?”

“No, she is coming of her own volition. My poems have inspired her to come seek my council in person.”

“Well, aren’t you presumptuous? Ah, I am sorry, but I am feeling irritable this day.”

“Go fly in the sun. You will feel better. She comes at midnight. Be ready.”

Sparrow coasted down on a ray of sunlight, out of moon’s receding light. Her nightgown but a sliver, she felt cold and hid beneath a cloud, writing more and more poems.

The rain came down all day, and Sparrow watched humans as they made love, war, peace and babies. He danced with some children at a park and felt better. Then he watched the sun set over one of his favorite lakes and flew back home to his nebulous perch outside Moon’s window.

She was tidying up the place, putting out fresh flowers, wiping down all of her craters. “Ah, just in time. Have a seat.” She pointed to the coat rack, and he climbed onto one of its branches.

Just as Moon was dunking bags of stardust in two mugs, in whisked her sister, casting shadows over everything. Moon felt a tingle go down her spine. “You’re here. What do you seek, Dark Side?”

“I wish to black out the sun for one day. I am feeling sinister.”

“No, no. You are always feeling sinister, but that doesn’t mean you act on it. Come, what has got you so down?”

“Well, the earth has lost some of its luster, the colors grayed with pollution and negativity.  I heard the children are suffering down there.”

“And you wish to teach them a lesson?”

“Yes.”

Moon patted her sister’s bony hand with her fat one. “Well, I believe in shining light into darkness. I see the people’s dreams, and I know they aren’t all bad. I do feel sadness for the children, though, but that is why I write my poems.”

“That’s it!” the dark one snapped her fingers. “I will deliver the poems in their dreams, and bring them comfort. I will be able to travel there without being seen.”

Sparrow protested. “But why can’t we throw some light into the darkest places of the world? It’s as if the sun doesn’t shine brightly enough to cure the earth of its darkness. I wish we could just black out the earth and start over. Would you consider this, fair sister?” He flapped his wings with every word, startling them both with his temerity.

“You know what? We will stick with what we are good at. I write poems, she delivers them and you go talk to the sun, see if he will relinquish some light or shine harder. We don’t visit him, for he can be too much of a hothead.”

“Fine, then, I will, and don’t wait up for me.”  He flew off into the night. Moon felt guilty for going along with her dark side and dismissing Sparrow’s feelings, but dark side didn’t feel bad because she knew Sparrow would find justice.

Sparrow talked with Sun, waking him up before he was ready, and he growled, but agreed to the bird’s request. “So you want me to stop shining for how long?”

“Just an hour, just so they will hear reason and start being such jerks to each other.”

“And you want it just dark and quiet?”

“Yes, so they can think about it.”

Sun scratched his chin, licked down one of his stubborn flames. “And you don’t think they will panic?”

“If they do, just turn back on after fifteen minutes.”

Sun agreed, and they set off. Sun rose over the earth and shone for two hours that morning, but went out at ten a.m. Nobody inside noticed, but all of the children playing outside did. They ran up to their moms and pulled on their legs, and the moms frowned for a moment, but then they smiled.

“Finally, a few extra minutes of shut eye.” The moon winked and shut the storybook. Sparrow had fallen asleep in less than five pages. She snuggled down under the stars and let her dark side tend to the rest of the night’s work.

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The One-Handed Sorceress

She always wondered what it would be like to cast spells with both  hands, but was learning quickly in spite of her handicap. First, magic doesn’t require too much when you work from home. A good story can lure somebody into its pages, a little incense can arouse the senses, too. Not the copal, though. Then you need one hand free to light the charcoal under the sweet and spicy nugget, another to place the fan in the window so you don’t set off the smoke detector. The neighbors don’t respond as graciously to the smoke, either; “Do you smell something?” “It smells burnt out here!” Stick to nag champa. That makes everybody want to listen to Bob Marley and get high, and for some, conjures up lost activist days at the basement bookstore on Broadway.

A solid conjure is crucial if you’re to attract a willing audience for your magic show. Blogs are difficult to manage unless you happen to be ambidextrous, and with all of the sites popping up like rabbits out of hats, better to work in ordinary reality. Wear colorful scarves around your shoulders. Linger longer than normal in public parks. Sing songs nobody can remember in a singsong voice while squeezing the tops of avocados. Smile at everyone, even grumpy people. This will build your credibility as a miracle worker, as well as increase your confidence as a one-handed wonder.

Remember: laughter is a powerful healer. You should laugh at everything, especially in the face of danger. Laugh at unpaid bills, the angry father of your child, the hurtful words that try and stick to your ribs and make you fat with sorrow and doubt. Laugh at the passing trials such as these, which repeat themselves like public broadcast programming, or the five versions of Star Trek. Get to know the pattern, but don’t let it determine your next trick or escape route. Keep practicing the cool, long walk of detachment, laughing at everything as it comes and goes like a tidal wave before your eyes.

Sleep with the lights on, but only enough light to see his moon white skin, his pink ears and wide hind paws jabbing you where they pulled him out of your body like a rabbit from a hat. This smiling crescent will wink at you from the mirror forever, but this child will disappear even as he grows like a sunflower before your eyes. Sleep with light coming in from the blinds so you can watch him unfurl as a bean stalk soaring through the sleepless lights.

 

Wonder Moon

I have two maps of the galaxy,

one mine, one yours.

Transposed,

they collapse

into one giant brain,

a unified district

of thought, feeling,

but you won’t look

no, you won’t listen,

too busy running laps

around the block,

fighting off your urge

to explode into a million

pieces I’ve wiped off

my skin before,

why delay

the inevitable

collapse of sobriety?

I gather my needle,

I gather my slightest sinew,

lay our two star maps

down to rest,

one on top the other,

stars colliding,

a bone nest

numskull planet

some call a mess,

but if altered

just right,

 

a wonder moon

we can drape

over any occasion,

its fluffy mass

tastier

than the original

History Report

To burn it would be sacrilegious, has served my family and me and even my country for fifty years. Got it from your grandma, my mama, when I was eighteen, then used it at the women’s college. Kept me warm all of those late nights studying for my finals. Made love on it out at the point overlooking the city, then watched my first child crawl across it, placing each hand in a square as if he was claiming each patch as his own private territory, then the grandchildren used it for their rainy day fortress. When we were poor, it served as a partition between our sleeping and living area. Kept the chill out when we nailed it over that rattling window.  Took it to the beach, would roast hot dogs and marshmallows under the stars when it got dark, kids wrapped up in it to keep the mosquitoes away. Then during the Holocaust…well, I don’t want to say. Are you recording this? Turn it off. You see, we hung it up on the wall above the first landing on the stairs in the tenement house. There was a secret doorway behind it, but you wouldn’t have known that because the stairs went up to another floor of apartments, and nobody would think to look behind that raggedy thing. One time a soldier asked, and we said, it covers up a water stain, or sometimes we would say, there’s a draft there, but they never really said much as they barreled up the stairs looking for Jews. Mama would hide them there, though. She was such a nice landlady, hated the Germans even though she was one. She’d tuck her tenants up in that crawlspace behind the quilt and nobody ever knew. Oh, and now that we have a nicer home, we have it here, pinned up across from the fireplace. It has grown so tattered and thin, we almost thought of framing it in glass, but then like you said, how would it breathe and tell its stories? Such a peculiar thought, but I know what you meant. Sometimes when I feel so alone at night, I sip my cup of tea and think about pulling it off the wall and wrapping it around me, hoping I can disappear into its folds and emerge somewhere out in outer space, somewhere safe from all of the violence here on earth. I can’t believe the government is still persecuting people, saying they are illegal aliens. Gosh, if they knew how many times I took people in when the kids were tots, poor men out of their luck needing a warm meal, well, they’d probably lock me up, too, but not without my quilt. No. That’s why this project is so important. We need more quilts in our homes. Quilts are the overseers of the heart and soul.  That’s why I volunteered to make another one to send to the Syrian embassy. It’s just my hands have grown so weak, and I hope you take up the calling, Sarah Beth. Think of how much this quilt is going to serve you when I die. You make a quilt, you make the earth a better place to live.  Just bury me in that one on the wall, will you? Don’t forget, okay?

Bingo Queen

Takes her Twinings at 7,  gathers owl feathers for a cape she will never wear. Eats her soup at 10, walks the neighborhood again, picking everyone’s dandelions for bitter salad, back to her mystery novel, the one with the disappearing mailman. Sells her old quilts on Ebay, if Thursday, gets together to play bingo with the other neighborhood ladies, brings an item for the pot, usually laundry money or Little Debbies, but this time, feels compelled by the robin singing outside her window to bring Daddy’s Swiss army knife, and those lavender seashell soaps that are too pretty to use up. Ruby thought she brought too much, but Misty shook her head, these are gifts she needed to give up, nobody replied, but only smiled and kept shuffling their tokens in their papery hands because they, too, had run out of room for their husband’s tool boxes, coffee mugs and magazines, but wouldn’t dare empty their apartments of them, and god forbid purge the medicine cabinets of boar bristle shaving brushes, Bryllcreem, Aqua Velva, those sundries they savor at bedtime right after their gameshows, dabbing aftershave on their wrists, especially on lodge night, to keep their dreams free of their freewheeling Daddy- Os, or so Misty guessed as she showed them her blacked out card and picked the Nutter Butters and a puzzle book just in case she got caught in a downpour on her weekly trip to the dollar store, had to take that stinking bus full of coughing fits and back seat bingo

Coast to Coast

Our faces flush,

snapping beans

between sips of dandelion

on the stoop

under the peeling barn,

eyes on high alert

for the meteor shower,

the falling stars Pleadians

bored by outer space,

best to use our wishes

to grant survivors

sanctuary on our planet.

The last of the beans

flop into the pot,

wipe your hands

on the earth

as you pad off

towards the flickering

porch light,

just in time

for your nightly news

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ancestors

Dream scrubbers.

Passing over

wide eyed insomniacs

and sleepwalkers.

 

Owls hunt out heat,

but the red eye fliers?

Blow in on their wings,

dredge our sleep

for something to eat.

Fill up their jugs

with our worries,

spit it out into the galaxy.

Blech! What happened to the roses?

We want something sweet!

 

Observing a single dragonfly

sway on its detour

through your busy life

is a three course meal

in the afterlife.