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"Spines", excerpt ii

Friday 12/13/19

The spindles raced. During our evenings alone. Like one of them could not wait to be first in growing to the ceiling, could pierce the plaster, feel the night’s cold air, advance upon the stars like a whittled cypress tree. The choking, as of so many fish, their scales dried out, encrusted with salt, beating on a beach in a pile, like leaves, fish you could rake. From her lungs. And I twisted.

My left hand kept the tight grip around her waist, my right hand went to her head, and the former I moved upwards, the top of my wrist moving towards the ceiling, where the spindles wished to go, the latter I moved more, my own knuckles coming back towards me, my chest, where my pulse had ceased to be, the only place in me where it did not throb.

And as she snapped, as she broke in two but remained in a single piece, but for the separation within, I was careful not to keep too tight a grip with my bottom hand, for I didn’t wish to bruise her. I placed her back into her crib, kissed her mouth, the soft peace of her lips. I got in bed with Barry, who was happy. The child cried hardly at all at night. He sat in his wingback most evenings. Tomorrow he would dispossess trees from their place in the earth, convert the vertical into the horizontal, then the horizontal into more firewood than we could use. So happy. He reached for me, and I let him, because he could not see my eyes, the wetness of my face he would mistake for sweat, when he really got started, dialed in, focused on the thrust, rhythms of life, the syncopated beat of you, me, and also her, the next, because there would be others, only there wasn’t, and in the morning I would tell him that his child was dead.

I entered to see her first, to claim the horrible morning, as I had sought to claim the evenings, not from a competitive standpoint, one must realize. I heard her sounds, coos like a rock dove, saw tiny feet kicking at air, or peddling an upside down, imaginary bicycle—for who is to say what a child on its back sees—and I rushed in, scooped her into my arms, kissed the lips, their soft peace, and understood. And each night, as my child suffered, I would do what I had to do for her, and each morning she was healthier than the last. Eventually she talked, asked the questions other children asked. Some particulars they do not. “Why does dad cut everything?”, “everything” being the trees.


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