Down double below the sun’s reach into the ocean, where eels & snake-like things produce their own light to get to work. Clocked in & checked out. Under-pressured & red-lined from infinity to here. The early bird gets in the worm hole. Flipped for real. Wormed & snaked, on the take & taken on. Early to bed but not to dream. Going going gone. Home-runned & thrown back into play. Pitched & catched & charmed.
Pennies on the dollar & wolves on the prairie coordinate to beset little pink houses & barns & chicken coops & anything else they can eat down to the beaks & hooves & fingernails & pennies. Saving a life & a life’s savings, coins & cash stashed in a Bell jar under a floorboard where the children hope the wolves won’t smell, hope the wolves will be distracted from the piss-stink of fear in the children’s sweat while locking eyes with the first wolf through the door, the one who’s done this before, who knows all the hiding places & tender cuts.
It was a one-room schoolhouse of pain, which doubles as a house of worship. Which is the same thing. Then it was reading writing arithmetic. Then repeat. Then they were all the same thing & no one noticed before it was too late. It was too late, then textbooks, then standardized tests, then five paragraph essays. Easy peasy. Then #2 pencils, Fort Ticonderoga. Fill in the bubble. Erase & start over. Press reset. It was a history lesson, bassackwards as you please & thank you. We’ll be going now, taking our ball & going home to study. We never learned a thing.
Amusement parks & streetlight darks. Slick on each blade of switchgrass, night blood creeps through tears in a screened window. Elements sneak in enough to catch a cold, a fever, a chill, a chest full of pond scum. Cough up handfuls of second-handed burning leaves, still embers under the frosted-over fire pit muck. Swamps filled in & drilled to death & paved over & moved in to our respiration, our rusting animatronics.
How to progress when so much undoing piles on our desks, unkissed by the sun. We know who gets the win & for us it’s none of the above. We can see the future when we choose to look. We inherit memory in our protein chains & do we call memory nature or nurture. Or both. We can’t see both, don’t look both ways without picking up interference, without the cheap cologne of fear clearing crosswalks & dance floors.
We shiver with the knowledge of a newly-discovered spider in the dark of an abandoned silver mine in Baja California. A spider the size of a baseball, just in time for opening day, more or less as poisonous as the mine’s boarded-up air. Less than a threat in reality, but arachnophobic dreams find no comfort in distance, in being time zones removed, in azimuth angles. The monster is out there, growing in conditions unable to support human life. Even money it hungers for golden revenge, for prey that kneels & prays.
Ryan Collins is the author of A New American Field Guide & Song Book (H_NGM_N Books, 2015). He hosts the SPECTRA Reading Series in Rock Island, IL where he lives.